Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bikur Holim Hospital Owes Money

Bikur Holim was the first hospital in modern Jerusalem, founded in 1826. (Earlier institutions included the Hospitaler monastic order, also set up in Jerusalem many centuries earlier. Jerusalem is an old place).

Earlier this month, Bikur Holim ended its independent run and was folded into Shaare Zedek, another hospital set up in the 19th century. This transition has been in the works for years, since the management of Bikur Holim has not succeeded in balancing its books for quite some time.

The Israel State Archives, a young spring chicken in comparison, founded in 1949, just happens to have various collections which it inherited from earlier institutions--the Austrian Consulate in Jerusalem, for example, which was active prior to WWII. From there, we can learn that Bikur Holim's financial woes may actually go back considerably farther than we thought. (פ-1044/16).

On May 18, 1931, a clerk of the Minerva bookstore in Vienna wrote to the Austrian Consul in Jerusalem: the previous year they had sent five scientific books (list enclosed) to Dr. Bernfeld at Bikur Holim, who had never paid for them the cost of 75.28 Schilling. Since he wasn't answering their letters, the bookstore was now requesting of the local diplomat that he collect their bill for them. On June 13, 1931, the consulate sent a letter to the hospital, and on July 1, 1931, they wrote back to the Minerva bookstore in Austria: the hospital isn't answering us, either. We recommend the services of Dr. Philipp Fleischer, a lawyer in Tel Aviv; in the meantime, kindly reimburse us for the stamps we've used in this correspondence. (This was before free e-mail.)

You begin to wonder if the demise of the hospital wasn't somehow inevitable.

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