Israel's Chinese Medicine Man

Roni Sapir is a world authority on the ancient medical art, teaching it to Israelis and Chinese and treating patients in several countries.

Published: June 14th 2011
in News » Israel

Roni Sapir, founder and dean of the Israeli Centre of Classic Chinese Medicine.

Haifa native Roni Sapir was studying geography and computers in college when a segment of the Israeli TV program Innovations and Inventions caught his interest. It showed a Chinese man having open-heart surgery with no anesthetic.


"The patient was completely awake and conversing calmly while the doctors dug in his chest," he recalls. He was feeling no pain because of the Chinese needle technique called acupuncture.


"Wow, this is really amazing," Sapir recalls thinking as he watched.


Today, the 50-year-old Sapir is founder and dean of the Israeli Centre of Classic Chinese Medicine ("East-West") in Raanana.


He teaches practitioners in Israel and China, sees patients internationally and is director of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies, a body that oversees 174 associations in about 80 countries. He is vice president of the new International Red Cross Hospital in Hunan as well.


Marine photographer or acupuncturist?


Now one of the world's foremost authorities on the ancient medical art, he had intended to be a marine photographer with a backup in computer science.


But two years after seeing that TV program, Sapir noticed a headline announcing the opening of a Chinese medicine school in Tel Aviv. When he called to inquire, he learned that it was started by two Israelis who had studied in California. The classes were to be given on Tuesdays - the one free day in Sapir's schedule.


Over three years of Tuesday classes, he learned the basics of what is known as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), whose practices include herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy and dietary therapy.


Sapir was drawn to learn more about classical Chinese medicine (CCM), grounded in the original spiritual underpinnings of the practice -- such as the forces of yin and yang and the five elements of earth, fire, wood, metal and water. CCM and its practitioners were banned from China after the 1949 Communist revolution, which is why Sapir discovered that the best school for CCM was in England.


"I didn't know a word of English, but they took me on trial," Sapir says in his now excellent English. He studied there from 1984 to 1992, earning an advanced degree and becoming a clinician and teacher at the school. Eventually, he was running five clinics.


And then, a little voice told him to go home. Taking it as a sign from God, Sapir packed enough things for a week and waited at his parents' house in Haifa for the next "sign." It came when he went to the TCM school in Tel Aviv to meet a friend for lunch. He ran into the director of the school, who asked him to open another Chinese medicine school in Israel. A month later, he was back to stay.


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