(photo credit: )
Dr. Joshua Cohen,
the doctor aboard the Exodus – the legendary Aliya Bet ship that
attempted to bring Holocaust survivors from war-torn Europe to
British-mandated Palestine in the 1947 – died on Tuesday in Jerusalem at
86.In the mid-1950s,
responsible for creating a master plan for
Israel’s hospitals, and helped set up most of the country’s general and
psychiatric hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
Shortly after completing his medical studies in the United
Kingdom, the Glasgow-born Cohen contacted a Habonim Zionist Youth
Movement representative in London to volunteer his services for the
nation in the making.
He was first sent to refugee
camps in southern France to examine Holocaust survivors before boarding
one of the 60 ships used to transport more than 60,000 “illegal”
immigrants from the ports of Europe to Palestine.
It was during
this time that he was approached by Exodus commander Yossi Harel and
captain Ike Aronowitz – who died late last year – to serve as the ship’s
official doctor. Most of the crew on board was made up of volunteers
from the US and Canada.
With limited medical equipment, Cohen set
up impromptu clinics on every deck to care for more than 4,500
passengers, including 655 children.
On reaching the shores of
Mandatory Palestine on July 18, 1947 – almost 63 years ago to the day –
the Royal Navy boarded the ship. Two refugees and a crewman were killed
in the battle, and 30 people were wounded.
When the fighting
ended, Cohen negotiated with the British doctors to have as many wounded
as possible sent by ambulance to Haifa. But most of the passengers on
the Exodus were forced onto prison ships and sent back to Europe.
his experience on the Exodus, Cohen returned to the UK, only to be
recruited by the British Army. He eventually returned to Israel and
served for four years in the Israeli Medical Corps. Later, he was
director general of the Poriya Hospital outside Tiberias, as well as
deputy director of Rambam Hospital in Haifa.
He also served as an adviser to the Foreign Ministry’s agency for
international development cooperation, MASHAV, providing expertise in
the field of health in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.
From the late 1960s, he was an adviser on health policy to the
director-general of the World Health Organization in Geneva, where he
was instrumental in launching global programs on universal child
immunization, tropical disease research and AIDS. After his retirement
in 1988, Cohen continued to work as a consultant at the Health Ministry
and the WHO.
Cohen was laid to rest in Jerusalem. He is survived by his wife, a son, a
daughter and three grandchildren.