United Hatzalah Finishes Preparations for 2017 Meron Operation Ahead of Lag Ba’Omer Holiday

Hundreds of EMTs, dozens of paramedics and doctors, as well as numerous emergency transport vehicles are ready and waiting to be spread across the town of Meron and accompanying hillside ahead of this weekend’s festivities celebrating the 33rd day of the Omer on the Jewish calendar. The yearly holiday is the single largest gathering in Israel each year, and this year’s celebration is expected to see upwards of 300,000 people gather around the grave of Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai in honor of the day.

The United Hatzalah tent and emergency clinic set up in Meron

The United Hatzalah tent and emergency clinic set up in Meron

United Hatzalah’s EMS teams are tasked with providing on-scene medical services to all of the visitors present. Round-the-clock shifts have been set up in order to ensure safety and treat any injuries that may befall attendees. Heads of the organization have been attending collaborative meetings with other organizations such as the municipal and national government, the police, Fire and Rescue Services and the national ambulance service in order to ensure public safety.  

The event is set to begin on Thursday afternoon when many of the pilgrims will make their way to the town for the weekend. Volunteers will stay on site until Monday morning as many celebrants will be staying past the last bonfires lit on Sunday evening.

Volunteer EMS personnel on watch during last year's event

Volunteer EMS personnel on watch during last year’s event

The operational division of United Hatzalah has already set up its mobile command center which acts as the center of activities during the festival. Volunteers from all over the country who will be taking part in the operation have been assigned to shifts and briefed about special points of interest as well as solutions to issues that have come up during previous years’ celebrations.

The organization’s ambucycle unit will be forming a protective perimeter around the mountain allowing volunteers to provide immediate response to any and all medical emergencies. This includes the various parking lots that have been set up to accommodate visitors and that usually suffer from major traffic congestion. Special ATVs will also be used in transporting volunteers to and from emergencies, and if needed, will carry patients out of a crowded area and bring them to the temporary clinic set up on site by the organization to triage and treat patients requiring immediate response.

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The Next Wave of Life-Saving in Israel Explained

Among the honored guest speakers at the Jerusalem Post Conference, which took place on Sunday in New York City, was United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer. Beer was invited to discuss the technological advancements and social impact of the United Hatzalah model of life-saving in Israel and how it has revolutionized the field of pre-ambulatory emergency care in Israel and the shockwaves that it is making around the world.

Eli Beer on stage with a United Hatzalah ambucycle. (Photo Credit: Joel Leyden - Twitter)

Eli Beer on stage with a United Hatzalah ambucycle. (Photo Credit: Joel Leyden – Twitter)

Beer got on stage with one of the organization’s iconic ambucycles that have helped the United Hatzalah cut down emergency response time to under three minutes nationwide. By utilizing ambucycles (motorcycles that are stocked with all of the essential medical equipment that an ambulance has) to cut through traffic, and teaming them together with the organization’s volunteer network of more than 3,500 volunteers, the organization has developed a model that maintains the fastest emergency response time for a national organization in the world.


“We never stop innovating,” said Beer just before he took the stage. “Whatever is needed to answer the call and get our volunteers to the scene of an emergency faster in order to provide faster treatment for the patient, that is what we will do. It pains me whenever I hear a story of someone who suffered or died because there was a delay in providing that patient with emergency medical care, no matter who valid the reason. Time is of the essence and seconds count. That is why we are doing everything we can to cut down response time. We are continually training more and more volunteers both at the BLS and ALS levels, and we are providing them with the technology, equipment, and transportation that they need to arrive at an emergency as quickly as they can.”


The organization is living up to Beer’s philosophy and has recently purchased another 180 ambucycles, which will be used by the volunteers across the country to cut down response time even further. The ambucycles are set to be dedicated in a massive ceremony on May 26th in Tel Aviv. “This is the single largest dedication of emergency vehicles in Israel’s history. Never before have 180 life-saving ambucycles been dedicated at a single event. The organization has invested a lot of resources in this project in order to help the people of Israel even more than we do now. We will continue our efforts to cut down our response time, with the goal of eventually maintaining a nationwide response time of 90 seconds.”


Many have thought that Beer’s dream of a 90 second average response time was unobtainable, yet in major cities such as Jerusalem and parts of the greater Tel Aviv area, that average response time is already a reality. “We want to put a volunteer on every street corner and outfit them with all of the equipment that they will need to save a life. This includes a medical kit, a defibrillator, and a vehicle appropriate for their neighborhood, which will enable the volunteer to provide emergency medical services (EMS) coverage for his family, friends, and neighbors, in record time,” Beer added.
With the new fleet of ambucycles, and the 30 training courses currently underway across the country, Beer’s dream is quickly becoming a reality.  

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Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Responds to Yom Ha’atzmaut Fatality

The Kiryat Gat Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel have gotten used to seeing United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit in action over the past few months, so said Team Leader Yaakov Weinberg in a thank you note to the Unit on Wednesday.

This past week, during the Yom HaZikaron commemoration and Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, the unit’s volunteers traveled from afar to respond to crises in the city twice, once on each day. The first instance was following the tragic death of a youngster in the city whose family was well known. Psychotrauma volunteers came from Jerusalem to help comfort the family, neighbors, and friends of the child. They helped the family mourn and cope with the incident. The volunteers stayed for a number of hours before returning home.

Psychotrauma Unit on scene in Kiryat Gat

Psychotrauma Unit on scene in Kiryat Gat

During the second incident, which occurred just after noon on Yom Ha’atzmaut, the volunteers from the Psychotrauma Unit left their family barbecues and headed once again south to help those who suffered a tragedy in the city.

According to Weinberg “I received a call around noon on Yom Ha’atzmaut that a person had fallen some five stories off of a building. I was the first person to arrive on the scene. Upon arrival, I was quickly joined by other volunteers and together we immediately began performing CPR on the patient. After a few other responders arrived we learned that there were family members in the building. I went inside and found the man’s wife and daughter. They were hysterical. Nothing we tried was able to calm them down. I called the dispatch center and requested that they send the Psychotrauma team immediately to help the family members. I was told that volunteers were leaving Beit Shemesh and that it would take them 40 minutes to get to us. I told them to get here as fast as they could, and indeed they almost beat the ambulance.”

Weinberg described how valuable the work of the unit is to those in need of emotional support following a tragedy. “Together with a police officer who arrived at the scene, I spent an hour inside trying to console the family members who were present. There were two other children who were supposed to arrive at the building as well. I tried to offer the family members whatever support and strength I could in the face of their tragedy but it was one of the hardest sights that I have ever had to witness. The complete explosion of this family and the cries of the family members was too much to bare for me, and at times I found myself crying alongside them. When the Psychotrauma volunteers arrived, they, together with the EMS teams, told the family the news that their husband and father had been declared dead, but they did it in such a calming way that the family was comforted. The level of care and professionalism that they showed is something that I had not seen before in the field when responding to those suffering a personal trauma of this nature.”

Eli Beer, Founder and President of United Hatzalah said, “The job of our Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers is to build a support system for those who need their help. The volunteers arrive, help stabilize the patients and build a support system for them to help them figure out the next steps that they need to take and then leave once that support system is in place.”

Weinberg said that the volunteers stayed for more than two hours with the family members and neighbors who had seen the incident and were having trouble understanding the next steps in dealing with the tragedy. “After more than two hours I went out to buy pizza and drinks for the volunteers who arrived. As the head of the local team, it is the least that I could do for these volunteers who gave so much of their time on the holiday to help those in need. I can’t thank them enough for their devotion and dedication.”

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United Hatzalah EMTs Calm And Treat Blind Arab Girl Following Jerusalem Car Accident

On Monday, two United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs, Dovy Meyer and Yisrael Shachar, responded to a car accident near Mamilla.

“One of the many calls I responded to on Monday morning was a car accident that occurred in the tunnel underneath Tzahal square. Most of the people thankfully got out of the tunnel unharmed but one six-year-old Arab girl was trapped in the car. Her mother told me that she was blind. Shachar, who arrived with me is a father of three children. He spoke to her very calmly and explained what had happened and what we were about to do to help her. He spoke to her like he would his own child and it was very touching to witness,” said Meyer.

While Shachar was talking to the young girl, Meyer began putting a neck brace on her and prepared her to be evacuated from the car. “We were able to stabilize her and prepare her for transport primarily because Shachar had succeeded in calming her down.”

The girl was taken by ambulance to the hospital for further treatment.

Meyer said that the incident really moved him and while it was not the first time that he had treated Arab patients, the proximity to Tzahal square and to Israel’s Remembrance Day added meaning to the incident for the former Australian turned Israeli EMT.

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American Heart Association Taps United Hatzalah To Be Official Training Partner in Israel

The American Heart Association (AHA) boasts some 700 international training centers throughout the world. According to Glenn Vanden Houten, the AHA’s Regional Director for Europe and Africa, “United Hatzalah became one of our authorized training centers. We are proud that you have become part of that family.”


The new authorization provided by the AHA recognizes the United Hatzalah education and training of its EMTs and Paramedics as well as other community-based training initiatives such as the “Family First” project, which teaches basic CPR skills to the general public in a four-hour class.

United Hatzalah EMTs during a training exercise in Jerusalem.

United Hatzalah EMTs during a training exercise in Jerusalem.

“Both the basic life support (BLS) education as well as the advanced life support (ALS) training that United Hatzalah does will now come with international standardization. The idea is that the courses that are taught in United Hatzalah are the same courses that are taught in San Francisco, Italy and the rest of the world. It is standardized resuscitation training throughout the world. We are very proud to be part of United Hatzalah and to have a recognition from the Israeli side as well.”


On Sunday, Mr. Vanden Houten met with the Chief Medical supervisors of United Hatzalah, Israel’s national EMS first response organization on Sunday. Taking part in the meeting was Alon Basker, Manager of the Medical Division of United Hatzalah, and Itzik Chachmon the Project Manager in the Medical Division, as well as Dr. Kathryn Taubert, the Vice President of International Science and Health Strategies of AHA.


Dr. Taubert added that “The AHA is very proud to be here and to fully establish this partnership as we know that properly administered CPR saves lives. There is no doubt about that. We are very appreciative to United Hatzalah for partnering with us, but the person who is most appreciative is the person who is receiving the professional level of CPR that is being administered by your volunteers. The United Hatzalah model as we have seen it is fantastic. I’ve attended meetings around the world and we have seen the problem that traffic can provide for EMS response teams. Traffic is often a major cause of lengthy ‘door to bag’ and ‘door to needle’ response times. What United Hatzalah is doing in terms of cutting down response times is incredible and I’m sure it is saving lives.”

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The Star of Life and the Orange Star of David: A Shining Symbol of What it Means to be First Responders in Israel

In an effort to raise awareness and create a stronger visual presence in the community, United Hatzalah has rebranded its vehicles and uniforms utilizing a new logo and embracing the color orange which has been widely understood as representing the organization’s 3,200 EMS volunteers around the country.


While explaining the choice of why the organization chose to rebrand at this time and to this color, President and Founder of the organization, Eli Beer said, “I remember when I was a kid saving people’s lives wearing the star of life and dressed in Orange. I was inspired by those symbols and the volunteers who wore them.”


Beer said that the change of color and logo is far more than just strategic maneuvering to allow the volunteers to be recognized more easily in the field, rather it is a message to those in need of help.

Eli Beer standing with a United Hatzalah's ambucycle and ambulance bearing the organization's new color and logo

Eli Beer standing with a United Hatzalah’s ambucycle and ambulance bearing the organization’s new color and logo.

“Our organization is expanding by leaps and bounds and we felt that it was time to embrace the new growth and development that we have thankfully been blessed with. That is why we are changing, to embrace the changing place that the organization has taken in the awareness of the Israeli populace and the international community.


We chose the new logo and the new color because of the meaning that they each possess for us and our volunteers. Since Operation Protective Edge, our volunteers have often been called “angels in orange” by those we treat. I, together with our volunteers, look at our uniforms, logo and shield with reverence and pride. The juxtaposition of the international EMS symbol for the Star of Life mixed with the Star of David are the two symbols that define us as a national EMS providers in Israel. The six arms of the Star of Life represent the six ideals of EMS first responders which are detection, reporting, response, on scene care, care in transport and transfer to definitive care.

Eli Beer standing next to United Hatzalah's new orange ambucycles.

Eli Beer standing next to United Hatzalah’s new orange ambucycles.

The Star of Life is a universal symbol of emergency medical care. The Star of David is our national symbol. Combining these two elements reminds us of the messages that we as an organization, as well as individuals, of the personal focus on patient care, providing national coverage with a three-minute response time free of charge and keeping an eye on continuing to develop our model internationally and responding to international crises when needed. These are the values that we want to symbolize through our new logo and print proudly on our ambulances, uniforms, trauma and medic bags, our personal vehicles, and even on the clothing that we wear.

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Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, United Hatzalah Steps Up Collaboration With IDF’s Search and Rescue Unit

On Monday afternoon, ten Search and Rescue Units took part in a joint exercise with the IDF’s Search and Rescue Unit 669 and United Hatzalah. According to Shmuel Avraham, the Director of Emergency and Security Operations at United Hatzalah, approximately ten percent of the volunteers present at the exercise were members of United Hatzalah’s emergency medical services. The exercise took place outside of the southern city of Arad and featured helicopter rescues and high-intensity training drills in some of the most difficult terrain in Israel.

IDF and Search and Rescue Units hold operational drill with United Hatzalah EMS teams on Monday

The cooperative relationship between United Hatzalah together with the IDF’s 669 Unit, began a few years ago but intensified after a recent meeting between the Emergency and Security Operations department of United Hatzalah and the IDF’s Search and Rescue Unit 669. The meeting took place at the 669 base in the center of the country.

While the department heads met with the chief officers of the unit an emergency alert sounded in the base notifying the soldiers to prepare for departure. The EMS staff went together with the chief officers into the unit’s operational command center where they heard that a car had fallen off a cliff on the Golan Heights.

While the soldiers were preparing for takeoff, Shmuel Avraham the Director of Emergency and Security Operations at United Hatzalah contacted the EMS volunteer who was dispatched to the scene in order to get a situation report. The volunteer reported to Avraham and the IDF officers that he was on scene and that both the driver and passenger had been able to evacuate the car after the fall and sustained light injuries. The IDF unit was able to stand down and the military, as well as the taxpayers, saved money that would have been wasted on an unnecessary helicopter excursion had the unit not had the first-hand information from the scene.

669 Rescue Helicopters during drill on Monday

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Helping​ ​Holocaust​ ​Survivors​ ​With​ ​Dignity

Esther Hotzlman is an 84-year-old widow who lives with one of her children in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. She immigrated to Israel at the age of 13 after surviving the holocaust. Esther originally hails from Greece and has had a momentous life in Israel. She served in the IDF shortly after the state was established, raised three children and numerous grandchildren, and “served her country honorably and well” as she said in her own words.

Yehuda and Esther

Yehuda and Esther

While in second grade and living in Greece, Esther suffered under the German occupation and watched as the Nazis rounded up all of the Jews in Salonika and the surrounding area and sent them off to the concentration and death camps of Germany. Esther’s family traveled between villages and stayed ahead of the Nazis. Whenever they heard that the Germans were coming to the town they were living in they picked up and moved before the Germans were able to arrive.


Eventually, the family got hold of false papers stating that they were Christians. Thus they were able to leave Greece and eventually head to Israel after the war ended. Today, Esther is dealing with numerous medical issues due to her age. One of the bright spots in her life are the weekly visits that she receives from Yehuda Amitai, a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah who also volunteers as part of the Ten Kavod project. As part of the project, Amitai pays weekly house calls to Esther in order to check up on her medical status, check her vitals, and offer her some companionship.

yehuda amitai and Esther resized

Amitai is one of more than 200 volunteers countrywide who is part of the project that helps elderly and often isolated people, many of whom are holocaust survivors, monitor their health. Volunteers monitor pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, sugar levels and other vital signs, and if there is a drastic change the volunteers are instructed to relay that information to the patient’s family physician.


For Amitai, like many of the Ten Kavod volunteers, the visits have created bonds of friendship with the patients. In many cases, the volunteer and the patient treat each other as family. The volunteers worry about the patients and help them in ways that go beyond the requirements of their volunteering.


“For me, it is a huge honor to be able to meet with Esther each week,” Amitai said. “Hearing her story, learning from her and helping her, lead me to believe that I get more from the visits than she does. Esther is a terrific person who is full of life. I learn so much from her and from the experiences that she shares with me. I am overjoyed each time I go to her home and help her with whatever I can. Helping people like Esther, who underwent the worst tragedy that humanity has ever known and who were responsible for founding and building this country, is the least I can do. We all need to support and assist these heroes, in whatever way we can. By doing so, we not only help them, we help ourselves far more.”

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After Terror Attack EMS Doctor Invents New Intubation Device Aimed at Increasing EMS and Hospital Intubation rates by 100%

“My name is Ishay Benuri. I am a pediatric gastroenterologist, married and father of seven amazing children, and I reside in the City of David, Jerusalem. I live next to the Old City and am a volunteer first responder with United Hatzalah. Unfortunately, I encounter many trauma cases including many terror attacks, the most recent of which was this past Saturday when a stabbing attack occurred in the old city. Whenever I respond to one of these attacks, and whenever I treat a patient, I always review the situation in my mind after the fact and try to assess what I could have done better.”

Photo credit: Jewish Business News http://jewishbusinessnews.com/2017/04/18/new-intubation-method-emerging-from-terror-attack-israel/

Photo credit: Jewish Business News

One such instance lead Benuri to create an entirely new method for intubating patients. The incident occurred on November 5th, 2014. There was a car ramming attack in the near Zvil square on Highway One next to the old city. At this attack, there were two locations where people were injured and those in need of emergency care lay injured on the streets. Benuri arrived at the scene in under a minute and understood it was a terror attack as he saw the soldiers running and one of them shouted, “the terrorist has been neutralized and is laying on the street.”

“I rushed to the most severely injured victim, a wounded teenager who was unconscious. I began attempting to secure the patient’s airway spinal column and open his airway while stabilizing his neck, but due to the injury it was very difficult to intubate. After inserting the laryngoscope and assuring that it was in the proper position, the endotracheal tube I introduced entered his esophagus instead of his trachea. When I realized that I was unable to intubate him properly, I switched to alternative methods utilizing a BVM mask. I was able to keep the patient alive and breathing for 7-10 minutes until the ambulance was able to arrive and take over treatment during transport to the hospital. The speedy delivery of oxygen allowed the victim to survive an extra 48 hours, which his family regarded as a great miracle as it enabled them to say goodbye and come to terms with the situation.

I learned that day to search for a solution that will prevent the difficulties that I experienced in the field. When I began to research the topic, I was confronted with statistics that shocked me. I found out that 50% of EMS initial attempts of intubation in the field fail. That is far too much in my opinion. The intubation method that we are using today are outdated and simply not effective enough in the field. Almost as worrisome is that emergent hospital intubations also have a failure rate of up to 30%, even with advanced digital imaging, which is also staggeringly high,” Benuri added.

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Haredi Consul, Israel EMS Share Glimpse Of Israeli Altruism With U.S. Consular Officers

United Hatzalah, an organization that enlists the community as EMS first responders, hosted ten US consular officers at its headquarters last week as a part of a tour put together by the Haredi Consul. The intention of the tour was to educate the US consular officers regarding the contribution of the haredi community to Israel. United Hatzalah is an organization that has haredi roots, and has transformed into a national EMS organization that is comprised of people from all walks of life in Israel and provides service to anyone who needs medical assistance, regardless of their political or religious affiliation.

US Consular officers at UH

US Consular officers at UH

The tour was organized by Rabbi Matityahu Cheshin from the haredi consul. Rabbi Cheshin is a 9th generation Jerusalemite and comes from the Breslov community in the city. Part of his job is to connect between various diplomats who are in Israel and Israel’s haredi community. Cheshin said that the reason why he felt it was important to bring specifically the US consular officers on the visit was because “The US Consulate is the largest consulate in Jerusalem. So it is natural that they would be interested to hear about what is going on in the haredi community which makes up a large part of the population, especially in Jerusalem.

“We chose to bring the consular officials to see UH because it is an organization that began as a haredi organization and now it helps everyone. It is important and is something that people need to know about. I look at myself as a liaison between the haredi community and the consular community throughout Israel. The work that United Hatzalah is doing has a very important message that we need to share with the world and I am happy to collaborate and help make that happen.”

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