Every year, the city of Arad, together with the local community center, “Tapuach Payis,” holds a health awareness week in which residents of the Negev are invited to learn more about the health care system and living a healthy lifestyle. This year, Avi Elyahani who is one of the organizers, invited United Hatzalah, to participate. United Hatzalah is Israel’s national emergency medical services (EMS) organization and maintains a fleet of more than 3,200 volunteer EMTs, paramedics, and doctors who have an average response time of less than three minutes.
The delegation from United Hatzalah ran programs for young children and explained how emergency medical services work. Hands-on activities and demonstrations explained to the youngsters how a defibrillator works and why it is an important tool. In addition, the organization ran special workshops for the elderly that focused on how to properly care for themselves and how to get the help they needed from the health system.
During the week-long event, two ambucycle drivers were on hand to discuss the importance of quick medical response to emergency situations, with and in-depth discussion of how the organization works, and what services it provides for every community across Israel.
Moshe Regev, an advanced EMT who is 78-years-old and still active, also participated in the event. “Regev is one of our most renowned volunteers,” said Elhayani, who runs the Arad chapter of United Hatzalah. “There are 11 of us United Hatzalah volunteers in Arad, and Regev acts as our community elder, guiding the newer EMTs. He has a lot of experience and shares it to make us all better EMTs,” Elhayani said.
Elhayani explained that the unit also provides medical care for the nearby Bedouin villages. “We work with the Bedouin villages that are closest to Arad and we answer calls there as well. We also work closely with the Israel Search and Rescue Units (Israel Rescue coalition) who are active in the South and often rescue hikers who are stranded in the nearby desert expanses.”
Elhayani is one of 13 siblings and one of two who are in the field of medicine. His brother is a professor at Soroka hospital. Elhayani is married with five children and relates to the whole organization as his own family as well.
“We are more than an organization. We are a family. One of our fellow EMTs was involved in a car accident recently, and his entire family was hospitalized. All of the volunteers from the Negev have been taking turns visiting the family and bringing them anything and everything they need. Whether it is taking care of the children there, who were also hospitalized or helping the family navigate hospital bureaucracy, United Hatzalah knows how to treat its volunteers and it really shows in what we give back to the community, and to one another.”