I asked Judy Bart Kancigor, another OU Cooking columnist if she had any leads on an answer. She didn't know the answer herself, but knew just the person to ask - an American, married to a Hungarian, who lived in Israel at the time in question. Below is her preliminary answer. She's still looking for exact recipes. Here goes:
"This is off the top of my head. I'll check some recipe books later, but don't expect to find the recipe you're looking for. In the 50s, they almost certainly used fresh fish, and made fish cakes or patties. I remember those. They were everywhere. So were Hungarian cooks. Almost all the cooks in the army were Hungarian, though they probably never cooked anything back in Hungary. I asked my husband about that, and he couldn't think of a reason for that but that they didn't want to die. The kitchen was safer than the battlefield. I knew some of them. They cooked in the army, but not at home, so the recipes used may have been Hungarian, but not necessarily. They may have used army or kibbutz recipes, the kibbutzim then having much more influence than they do now.
I don't remember canned fish at all, except in a very expensive store in Haifa catering to Americans at the Technion, etc. They had canned tuna. Israelis weren't familiar with that. They did have a fish paste that came in a small jar and was used as a spread, but was never an ingredient in a recipe. It was unappetizing and smelly, and I shied away from it like most spoiled Americans. But this was the time of Tzenah, the austerity program that channeled all hard currency to the immigration, housing and absorption of refugees, hordes of them, coming from the DP camps in Europe and evicted from all the Arabs countries. Half of the Jewish population was born in N. Africa, Iraq, Syria, Yemen....Most of the Arabic speaking newcomers did not eat fish at all. The rest of us ate fried fish--some small saltwater fish found in nearby waters and the ubiquitous carp grown in the fish ponds constructed in the draining of the swamps. All of Emek Jesreel had been a malaria-infested swamp. By 1951, most of it was drained and there were fish ponds in every kibbutz from Mt. Carmel to the Jordan River, and from the Dead Sea to Lebanon. They grew carp.
The last attack of malaria, in 1951, was my husband's. He ended it with an overdose of quinine that could have killed him, but he got rid of it and it never came back. That was his 13th attack, He got it from the part of the Valley still not fully drained, Maayan Harod, now a park and recreation area where people go for fun and swimming, then a malaria producer just below the marble quarry on the slope of Mt. Gilboa above it. Tne carp was used for gefilte fish, and it had to have been the one used for fish patties because there just wasn't anything else nearly as cheap and plentiful, and the only fish locally available.
Israel had no fishing fleet. There was some fishing in kibbutzim around Lake Kineret (aka the Sea of Galilee) and most of it was consumed locally, and also on the coast of the Mediterranean, from north of the Gaza Strip (then part of Egypt) straight up to Lebanon, but this was not serious commercial fishing, and I don't remember a single fish restaurant anywhere in Israel. Our whole kibbutz movement had one small ocean-going boat, and individual kibbutzim had one boat each for fishing nearby in the Mediterranean. No foreign currency was used for fishing.
As for the recipe, it was probably generic, mostly for quantity cooking in kibbutzim, army bases and schools and maybe also hospitals. The ingredients had to have been the simplest, just ground or chopped fish and onion, egg (not more than absolutely necessary, probably egg mixed with water), and either flour or bread crumbs (most likely flour, more basic and cheaper) fried in as little oil as possible, because eggs and oil were rationed until c. 1955. There was nothing mixed in that varied in color or texture, no carrots or parsley or anything like that.
As I write and remember, I can visualize those patties. They were a lot like the codfish cakes served at the New York City Automats of my childhood, a favorite during the Depression, when fish cakes were an important part of the Jewish diet. Every child in Brooklyn had fish cakes and spaghetti or mashed potatoes once a week, usually on Wednesday evenings. The fish cakes were made from canned salmon, cheaper than fresh fish. The dessert for that meal was usually chocolate pudding. The whole meal was very popular with schoolchildren. Typically, one child ate two fishcakes. In Israel, nobody ate more than one, so the starch and vegetables served along with it were very important. We had potatoes or noodles and whatever fresh vegetables were in season, cooked or in a salad,
I can't be more specific because I never cooked the Israeli fish patties. My husband hates fish. He does eat gefilte fish, but only if it is peppery. If it has sugar in it, it's out. The Israeli fishcakes were never made with sugar, not even when prepared by the same cooks who made gefilte out of the same fish and put sugar in it. And the fish cakes were never served with tartar sauce, which was nonexistent in Israel. It would have helped. The seasonings consisted of salt and pepper. I'll hunt for a recipe tomorrow, but meanwhile, this reminiscence might help."