Lives of the fellows

Eli Davis

b.1 June 1908 d.15 April 1997
BSc Manch(1929) MSc(1930) MB ChB(1933) MD(1935) MRCP(1937) FRCP(1970)

Eli Davis could hardly have foreseen when he was admitted to the MD degree of the University of Manchester in 1935, and later when he was physician in charge of St Andrew’s Hospital, in Londons East End, during the Second World War, that he was destined to play a key role in guaranteeing the continuity of the Israel’s medical services during the siege of Jerusalem and Israel’s War of Independence and in laying down the basis of new health and medical services all over Israel.

He was born in Birzai, Lithuania, where his father Hyman David (Davis) was a watchmaker. The family later emigrated to England. Davis was educated at Manchester Central School and then went on to Manchester University and Manchester Royal Infirmary. He qualified in 1933. After house jobs at Manchester Royal Infirmary he was appointed physician in charge at St Andrew’s Hospital, Bow. In 1946 he emigrated to Israel with his wife, Elise Sarah (née Rosenbloom), whom he had married in 1939, and his daughter, Naomi.

For many years Davis was an elected member of the British Zionist Federal Council and was the first national chairman of PATWA, founded in London in 1944. PATWA aimed at recruiting persons with high-level training and experience for service in Israel. Hundreds of PATWA families, who arrived towards the end of the British Mandate and in the first years of the State of Israel, made a distinct contribution to central and local government and to the development of Israel’s health and social services.

Eli Davis was a role model when he came to Jerusalem, to serve as deputy director general of the Hadassah Medical Organization. When his chief, Hayim Yasky, was killed in the Arab ambush of the medical convoy to Mount Scopus, Davis was catapulted into the number one post. After unremitting negotiations he succeeded in evacuating Hadassah staff, patients and nursing and medical students from Mount Scopus and relocating them in makeshift hospital premises in downtown Jerusalem, until it moved to the new medical centre at Ein Karem in Jerusalem in 1961.

After three years as director general of Hadassah Medical Organization, during which time he founded a new Hadassah Hospital in Beer-Sheva in 1949 and also paved the way for a new medical school and the faculty of health sciences which started the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Davis returned to the practice of medicine, heading up what then was the largest out-patients clinic and later becoming a professor of internal medicine at the Hebrew University - Hadassah Medical School.

Outside his professional life he wrote books on Jewish folk art and penned a number of medical novels.

David A Frenkel

(Volume X, page 98)

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