History

Dr. Zvi Kitain Saved Lives in 1929 Hebron Massacre

The doctor stayed in Hebron during the riots to treat survivors. Just one part of his fascinating life.

16.8.21, 22:09
Dr. Zvi Kitain (1885 - 1932) helped save lives in the Hebron massacre of 1929 and was the last Jewish resident to be evacuated, making sure all the survivors were properly treated first before leaving.

Born in Lubavitch to Shneur Zalman and Batya Chaya, daughter of Yehuda Leib Solominsky. Zvi was raised in the Chabad community and received a Hasidic Jewish education. His grandfather was a kosher butcher.

In 1901 he moved to Smolensk where he studied Russian and passed his matriculation exams. He also lived in Kazan.
In 1905 Zvi joined the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party (Revolutionary Socialists), where he excelled as a speaker and organizer of the railway workers. He was banned several times for his political activities.

In 1912 Kitain went to Germany and studied medicine in Strasbourg. He participated in the founding of the Hebrew Student Association and attended the first conference of Jewish students from Eastern Europe that convened in Karlsruhe.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Kitain was taken to a detention camp in Germany as a civilian prisoner of the enemy. After a few months, his German Jewish friends succeeded in having him released. During the war he continued his medical studies.

In 1916 he assisted Siegfried Lehmann in founding the Jüdisches Volksheim in Berlin, a Jewish community center that dealt with the rehabilitation and education of children from Eastern Europe.

Kitain completed his medical studies at the University of Berlin, qualified as a doctor of medicine and continued to study in special disciplines, with the intention of bringing his skills to the Land of Israel.

In 1922 Kitain immigrated to the Land of Israel and settled in Kibbutz Ein Harod. He worked for Hadassah at their medical centers in Tiberias, Haifa and other cities before moving to Tel Aviv where he worked at Hadassah Hospital.
In 1925 he married Rebecca Lerner. The couple had two children, Gabriel and Elisheva.

In the summer of 1929, he was transferred to the Beit Hadassah medical center to Hebron which offered discounted and free services to both Jews and Arabs in the city. The center was originally built in 1893 by Rabbi Haim Rahamim Yosef Franco as the Hesed Le'Avraham clinic.

On August 24, 1929, rioters stormed the clinic and murdered the pharmacist Dr. Ben Zion Gershon, his wife and daughter along with many others. The clinic was ransacked and medical equipment was smashed and destroyed.  At great risk to his life, Dr. Kitain treated the wounded in his home, examined the victims who had been tortured and their bodies mutilated and stayed until the last survivor was evacuated.

After the Jewish community was deported from Hebron by the Brtitish, Dr. Kitain returned to work at Hadassah Hospital in Tel Aviv.

In 1931 Dr. Kitain accompanied the celebrated poet Rachel Blaustein to the hospital and treated her in the last few weeks of her life.

He died on June 30, 1932 after suffering from heart disease.
 
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