News and Events

Three Generations of "Blue and White" Medicine at Rambam

Publication Date: 5/10/2021 10:30 AM

Ofer Semel chose to honor his family’s legacy by following in the footsteps of his grandfather and his mother by working at Rambam Health Care Campus.

(L-R) Dr. Rafael Gjebin, Michal (Miki) Semel, Ofer Semel. Photography courtesy of Rambam HCC.
(L-R) Dr. Rafael Gjebin, Michal (Miki) Semel, Ofer Semel. Photography courtesy of Rambam HCC.

Three generations of one family—the grandfather, the mother, and now the son—have been taking care of patients at Rambam Health Care Campus since before the founding of the State of Israel. For the past 11 years, Ofer Semel, 42, a resident of Nesher, has been part of the Department of Anesthesiology at Rambam, but members of his family have dedicated their professional lives to Rambam for almost three quarters of a century!

Semel's grandfather, Dr. Rafael Gjebin, was appointed the first Director General of Rambam in 1948, at the conclusion of the British Mandate. His mother, Michal (Miki) Semel, was a senior nurse at Rambam for 30 years.

Dr. Gjebin, who was born in Georgia, made Aliyah to Israel (then mandatory Palestine) in 1935, when the British still controlled the country. He joined the Haganah, and on the eve of World War II, enlisted as a physician in the British army and became one of the leaders of the movement to recruit Jewish doctors to assist in the British war effort. During the war, Dr. Gjebin served in Ethiopia, where he established a nursing school, and directed the military medical service in that country.

He was released from his British military service in 1946, with the rank of colonel, the highest rank achieved by a Jewish military officer in the British army. On May 15, 1948, Israel's Independence Day, Dr. Gjebin became the first Director General of Rambam, which was transformed overnight from a British mandatory medical facility to a full-fledged Israeli hospital.

Dr. Gjebin and his wife Helena had three daughters, one of whom, Michal, continued her father's legacy when she chose a career in nursing. For 30 years, Michal was a senior nurse at Rambam, ultimately in charge of human resources in the Hospital's nursing service. In 2010, several years after her retirement from Rambam, Michal died tragically due to a violent allergic reaction during a trip to the North.

With the death of his mother, Semel decided that the family's legacy of patient care must be perpetuated. Four months later, he began working in Rambam's Ambulatory Surgery Department. “I never even thought about it,” reminisced Semel. “ Even though the operating room was a bit intimidating, I was always convinced that this is what I need to do. Eleven years later, I am still here, excited to come to work every day, to help take care of patients, and contribute, in my own way, to my family's heritage.

“To my great sorrow, my mother never saw me wearing the Rambam uniform, but I know that it would have made her very happy. My grandfather, who died before I was born, would also have been delighted with my decision to work here. To walk in the halls of Rambam, and to know that I am the third generation of my family to work here, is an amazing feeling!”