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Doctor No

Doctor-No2Dr Harry Bloomberg ... wanted to make aliyah in 1949

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and as is usual now days, the talk quickly got around to the Coronavirus. I mentioned to him that for my father, Dr. Harold (Harry) Bloomberg this would have been bread and butter.

After telling him the story of what happened to our family, he told me that I had to make this story public, so that the general public would know how a socialistic country operated.

Here it is:

In addition to his basic Mb. Chb. medical degree, my father had studied further and had two more degrees, a D.T.M.&H and a D.P.H. (The latter being a diploma in Public Health). For years he had worked in this field and was the first South African doctor to be registered as a specialist in this field.

In 1949, my father applied for a job in Israel and after some time, received notification that he had been accepted as the regional medical officer for Haifa and the north and that we would move to Moshav Habonim, where the Nowezenitz (Navon) family from Randfontein were living.

He started plans to come on aliyah and sold both our house and his share in his medical practice. He also signed a contract stating that if he ever came back to SA, he wouldn't work as a doctor within a 50-mile radius of Randfontein. My sister at this stage was only a few months old, my brother was five and I was eight years old.

About two months before we were to leave, a letter arrived from Israel, saying that a problem had arisen and as a result of there not being a school for me, the whole deal had to be cancelled. My father then began looking for a new job in SA and applied and was accepted as the Medical Officer of Health of Brakpan. This was 50 miles from Randfontein and we then moved there.

Subsequently, he left the municipality and became the Chief Medical Officer of the Mines Benefit Society in South Africa and in time also became an advisor to the Minister of Health, on Public Health matters.

In 1961, I made aliyah and came on Machal. After a few years in Israel, I got married and my wife and I decided to go to South Africa, where I could study insurance. Towards the end of 1974, we returned to Israel and at the same time, my father, who had by then retired, decided to make aliyah as well. At the same time my brother and sister and their families also decided to make aliyah, all of us going around April of 1975.

In November 1974, my father and I flew to Israel to start finding accommodation and jobs for all of us and when we arrived, a very old friend from Randfontein arranged for us to stay with him. He was the General Manager of the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv and as such had a private flat in the hotel and we were treated like royalty for our stay.

When we arrived, my father had an introduction to Matilda Gez who was the chairperson of the Knesset Health Committee. She was born in Tunisia and had come to live in Israel as a young girl with her family and had been elected to the Knesset on the Labour Party list. We were very surprised when we met her at the Knesset that she spoke fluent English, in addition to Hebrew, Arabic, Italian, French and Spanish.

My father explained how in 1949 he had wanted to make aliyah and how at the last minute he had to change all his plans. He gave her his CV and copies of all correspondence and she asked where she could contact us, as she wanted to find his old file and see how she could help.

Early next morning, a Friday, she phoned and said that she was coming through to Tel Aviv and would we wait for her at the hotel. When she walked in to the lounge, she went up to my father and I will never forget her first words to him. "Dr. Bloomberg, on behalf of the Israeli Government, the Israeli Knesset, the Labour Party and on my own behalf, I beg your forgiveness".

He was absolutely flabbergasted and had no idea why she had said what she did.

In reply to his question as to what she was talking about, she then said: "Do you remember the letter that you received in 1949 saying that because there was no school for your eldest son, the whole deal relating to you becoming the regional doctor for Haifa and the north, was cancelled? That was not the real reason. The real reason was that somebody in the Ministry of Health had found out that you had previously been the Chairman of the Revisionist Party in South Africa and this got through to Ben Gurion, who then personally interfered and said that the deal had to be cancelled. Hence the excuse about the school.

My father could not believe his ears and was most upset, but she soon put him at ease and told him that when he arrived in Israel, he would go to an ulpan to learn Hebrew for six months and that thereafter she would personally find him a job suited to his qualifications and experience. This she did and he was appointed as the Chief Medical Officer of the Histadrut's largest and main clinic in Tel Aviv – a Herutnik in charge of Mapai's main clinic.

A few years after his arrival, a governmental committee of inquiry was set up to go into the operations of all the Medical Aid Societies in Israel, under the chairmanship of Justice Shoshana Netanyahu, Bibi's aunt and a Justice of the Supreme Court. The committee published a letter in all the newspapers asking that people who felt that they might be able to shed some light on this issue were welcome to contact them.

This my father did and he then received a phone call asking him to come to Jerusalem. He went and after each session he was asked to come back again, (four times in all). Finally, he was requested to give a written report of all that he had told the committee. His greatest disappointment was that not one of his recommendations were put into practice. 

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Sunday, 12 July 2020

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