United Hatzalah Holds Special Training and Social Gathering For Women’s Unit in Jerusalem

On Monday evening, a special event took place at United Hatzalah of Israel’s headquarters in Jerusalem.  The organization held a special training session and social gathering for the women who comprise the women’s unit and the midwives unit in the greater Jerusalem area. 

Director of the Women’s Unit Gitty Beer said: “The point  of the event was to have all of these women who give of themselves and their time to rush out and help others, a chance to meet one another, share stories, build connections with one another and thank them for all that they do. On top of managing their families and their jobs, they still manage to drop everything when an emergency happens and rush out to save a life. This is no simple task. These women are truly heroes.” 

The evening commenced with a special dinner prepared by none other than Beer’s daughter, Penina. The evening included a concert as well as an educational component in which guest speakers expanded upon some of the finer elements of EMS work.

“The women’s unit responds to all types of emergency medical calls, but their primary task is providing a much-needed response to particularly delicate calls specific to women. During these emergencies, our unit provides an extra element of care to an already traumatic situation. We’ve found that having a woman treat another woman makes the patient feel more comfortable, as the EMT understands the patient a little bit better than her male counterparts would,“ said Beer.

Unit Director Gitty Beer talking to the gathered women at the event

The evening was a small token of the organization’s appreciation for these hard-working and dedicated volunteers. It is important to us, as an organization, that we show our volunteers the appreciation that they deserve.

Currently the Women’s Unit numbers some 150 volunteers who serve in the communities of Jerusalem, Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Modi’in Illit and Bnei Brak. The Unit is looking to expand to other communities in which this extra level of sensitivity is requested by the community.

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Kiev and Israel Prepare For Uman

On Monday, a preparatory meeting took place in the Israeli consulate in Kiev ahead of the annual mass pilgrimage of Jews to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. 

Israel Delegation in Kiev at the Embassy

Organizers expect that the annual pilgrimage to the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, which is located in the relatively small town of Uman, will surpass 50,000 people this year. In light of the massive amount of visitors, most of whom come from Israel, Israel’s Foreign Ministry organized a meeting of the major organizations involved in running and securing the event. Among those present were Israeli Ambassador to the Ukraine Mr. Joel Leon, a representative of Israel’s police force, local health agencies and law enforcement and Chief Operations Director for United Hatzalah David Krispel.  


During the meeting, each representative presented a summation of the previous year’s operation. In addition, Krispel presented the gathered panel with the operational plan for the health management of the pilgrimage for the upcoming celebration. Included in the plan was the oversight and operation of the local medical clinic operated and run by United Hatzalah volunteers, as well as how the organization plans to equip and dispatch volunteer first responders and ambulance teams throughout the town over the holiday.  


Krispel showed the gathered representatives the map outlining the sign placements as well as emergency medical service points that are being set up in the town. The in-depth details given at the meeting were well received by local authorities who will be able to use the information to coordinate their efforts together with those of United Hatzalah during the holiday.  


Towards the end of the meeting, the commanding officer of emergency services for the region praised the cooperation between the organization and local authorities that took place last year and said that he wishes to strengthen that cooperation and establish a joint training drill prior to the influx of the tens of thousands of visitors expected this year.  

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Will Measels Tarnish Rosh Hashana In Uman This Year Again

 Last winter a drastic increase in measles cases was documented both in Israel and the United States. According to information that was received by the Health Ministries in both Israel and the United States the disease was spread by those who contracted the disease during their stay in Rosh Hashanah in Uman visiting the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

The Scene From Rosh Hashanah in Uman in 2018

Additionally, two workers in the Oxford Medical clinic that was working in Uman last year, and this year will be run in partnership with United Hatzalah contracted measles while they were in Uman. After they returned to Israel it was discovered that they had contracted the disease and brought it back with them to Israel. 


It was also reported that the head of the Breslov Institutions in Tzefat (Safed) was hospitalized last year after he too contracted the disease while he was in Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Koenig was hospitalized in Rambam Medical Center in Haifa and was in serious condition.


Rabbi Yisrael Klein who heads the medical clinic in Uman also contracted the measles during his work at the clinic helping the thousands of people who had medical emergencies during the holiday last year, asked the public to vaccinate against the measles prior to their arrival in the city.


As the area around Uman has also seen an outbreak of measles in recent months Israel’s Health Ministry has also asked the public to vaccinate against the measles before heading to Ukraine for the holiday. “People born in 1957 and onwards should have both measles vaccinations prior to their departure for Uman. Children over six months of age traveling abroad should receive at least one dose of the vaccine before traveling.” 


President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer also asked the public to vaccinate in order to avoid endangering others. “It is the protocol that all first responders involved in our organization must be fully vaccinated against the measles. However, with the thousands of visitors to the city of Uman over the holiday, I urge everyone to take upon themselves the responsibility of vaccinating before they come so as not to risk the lives of the other participants or their families when they return home. The outbreak of measles in New York and Israel, which both have been traced in part to people who spent the holiday in Uman in recent years has already cost the Jewish people dearly. It would be a tragedy that if someone who only wants to spend the holiday visiting the grave of Rebbe Nachman would be responsible for the avoidable death of innocent people.”

To support United Hatzalah’s work in Uman please click here: 

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United Hatzalah Holds Self Defense Classes For First Responders Following Wave Of Violence

Following numerous instances where volunteer first responders from United Hatzalah were physically attacked while responding to medical emergencies in the cities of Kfar Saba and Ra’anana, the organization has begun free self-defense training sessions for volunteers in these cities. The training course is a three-part series that gives the first responders the basic skills of how to defend themselves or their patients at a scene that sees violence take place.

Participants in the Self-Defense class

“As part of our EMT training classes, we teach all of our responders that scene safety is the most important factor that an EMT needs to consider when approaching a scene. It is the protocol to only enter a scene once it is safe. In spite of that, over the past few months, our volunteers have encountered numerous instances of violence where the scene was deemed safe at the onset of the incident but then spiraled into a situation where our volunteers themselves were attacked by someone at the scene. These people are often the patients themselves who took a few minutes to regain their strength before lashing out at someone at the scene,” explained Nitzan Reich, Chapter Head of United Hatzalah for Ra’anana and Kfar Saba.


Reich initiated the course after his volunteers were attacked and sent a message to the other chapter heads of the organization around the country inviting volunteers from other chapters who likewise suffered attacks to join the course. 


“The list for course if full, but we will make room to other first responders who have suffered violence in order to show our support for them,” he wrote in the message. 


Reich explained some of the difficulties faced by first responders who drop whatever they are doing to go treat an injured person only to be attacked themselves. “These instances were times when there was serious violence taking place and police were also at the scene. For many of our volunteers, these instances have been the first time that they were in these types of situations where they themselves were attacked. Even though police resecured the scenes quickly, our volunteers were left with dilemmas regarding how to proceed. Are they allowed to treat the person who just attacked them? How should they proceed?” 


“We are trying to give our volunteers tools to use in the field so that they can better learn how to identify potential threats so as to prevent an attack as well as what to do in cases where nothing else works and they do get attacked,” Reich added. “We’ve invited professional trainers who have dealt with these scenarios before and we are starting with one round of self-defense sessions. We will see if there is more demand on behalf of the volunteers after this initial course concludes.” 


The first class took of the current course took place on Thursday evening last week in Kfar Saba and saw more than 20 first responders from Kfar saba and the surrounding area learn new techniques. 

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Israeli Rabbi and EMT Saves Life of a Drowning Victim in India

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT and Chabad Rabbi Menachem Bakush was called upon to save the life of a local Indian man who drowned in a nearby village named Majach. 

Bakush performing CPR

Bakush, who lives in Manali, keeps a fully stocked medical kit from United Hatzalah with him wherever he goes rushed over to the village and began performing CPR on the young man. After an intense bout of CPR Bakush was successful at restoring the man’s pulse and he revived at the scene while they were waiting for transportation to arrive.

“I often get called by local people here in Manali or neighboring villages to assist when medical emergencies occur,” Bakush admitted. “My mission is to help others and that is exactly what I am doing,” he added. “Even though the incident was somewhat far from Manali, I went and I managed to save this man’s life thank God.” 

Bakush has been the local Chabad Shaliach in Manali for the past five months. He and his family will be staying for another month before returning to Israel.  

To support the work of volunteers like Menachem click here: 

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Last Night I Hugged A Palestinian I Had Never Met Before

The most important thing to realize is that we are all people. Last night I hugged a Palestinian man whom I had never met before outside the southern gate of Efrat, the town in which I live. I, together with other first responders, had just attempted to resuscitate his father. He had brought his father to the gate seeking medical assistance as his father had been suffering chest pains and was unconscious. 

Raphael and his ambucycle

The situation transpired just as I was leaving a different medical emergency inside Efrat where a man fainted. After successfully treating that man, I received the emergency call regarding the second medical emergency and raced over to the southern gate where CPR was already in progress. Responders who were closer than I was also rushed out of their homes, leaving their families, their children and their beds, to help a man they didn’t know, and sadly never would. 


After 40 minutes of intense CPR in which we brought a pulse back for a very short time only to lose it once again, the man flatlined and the assembled team of first responders which included a doctor, two paramedics, and a few EMTs, were instructed to stop resuscitative efforts. 


By this time, the son had been joined at the scene by his brother, his wife and other family members who were all waiting anxiously watching the CPR, hoping for a positive outcome- one that never came. One of the paramedics walked over to the two sons and explained the situation as kindly and as gently as he could. “We did everything we could,” he said. “We weren’t able to save him. I am sorry for your loss.” 


As the paramedic was talking to the family, the rest of the team cleaned up the scene, throwing out all of the used medical supplies and bringing a sheet to cover the body. The look on the face of the son is one that I will never forget. It was a look of a broken heart. 


The paramedic left and a police officer came over to take the son’s statement and help him organize plans for what to do with the body. It was at this point that I excused myself and stepped in. “You are the son of this man?” I asked. He replied in the affirmative. I looked into the son’s eyes and without further thought, I stepped forward and gave him a big hug. “I share in your sadness,” I told him. 


The Palestinian man who I was hugging was stunned. He was not expecting to receive a hug from a Jewish EMT. It took him a second but then he embraced me back, strongly. As he cried into my shoulder he simply said, “Thank you.”  We hugged for a minute or so. Then I turned to his brother and I hugged him. He was stunned as well but equally grateful. “Thank you,” he told me. “You have given us some comfort.” 


After I stepped away, one of the other EMTs came over and repeated my gesture. During his hug, the second EMT, also Jewish, told the deceased man’s sons: “You no longer need to worry, your father is in heaven. He’s up there together with Allah.” I added to the message: “He is also no longer in pain. He is at peace.” This resulted in another round of thanks from the gathered family members. 


With this small gesture of comfort, I helped these two men understand that I saw them as people, as people who are in pain and who needed comfort. I passed on a message that while we may have different nationalities and languages, I respect them and I wish to help alleviate the pain that they are suffering in whatever small way that I can. In spite of my efforts, I couldn’t change the outcome of their father’s state, but I could help these men by offering some comfort where they didn’t expect it. For me, empathy surpasses all boundaries, nationalities, languages, religions, and politics. The empathy I felt and showed at that moment is part of the job and part of being human. 


To support the work of volunteers like Raphael please click here:

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When A Doctor Arrives To Deliver A Baby On The Side Of The Road

Recently one Thursday afternoon, an 18-year-old man was involved in a car accident in Jerusalem. Having witnessed the accident, a 35-year-old woman had to stop her car behind the vehicles involved. While waiting for the incident to clear, she went into active labor at the side of the road. 

The scene of the accident and birth

United Hatzalah volunteer Dr. Ariel Lifschitz was standing near his ambucycle not far from the location, accompanying a summer festival procession in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem. He received the first emergency alert from United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center alerting him to the accident. He jumped on his ambucycle and flicked on his lights and sirens.  The crowd quickly moved back to make way for the volunteer physician, who sped off to the roadside birth.


A United Hatzalah ambulance driver was bringing an ambulance to a mass casualty training exercise in a forested area – en route he was alerted to the woman in labor. The driver (sans crew) raced to the scene in time to help deliver a baby boy! Ariel pulled up alongside the ambulance. He triaged the injured motorcycle rider and saw that his injuries were not life-threatening. He then rushed over to the woman in time to cut the umbilical cord, suction fluids and perform a rapid APGAR exam. The volunteer physician congratulated the parents and helped transfer the mother to an arriving municipal ambulance. He then assisted the crew and attached an IV for access to restorative fluids. 


The woman and her little boy were then whisked off to Hadassah Medical Center for further observation;  Dr. Lipshitz then turned his attention back to the young motorcyclist. The man had been wounded by a passing vehicle and needed some bandages and treatment. Dr. Lifschitz treated him and made sure that he was stable before he too was transported to the emergency room for X-rays.


Dr. Lifschitz and his ambucycle are not only saving lives, they are helping to bring them safely into this world. 


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Saving Lives In Bat Ayin

Bat Ayin is a small town with roughly 2,000 inhabitants located in Gush Etzion. The town has many unpaved dirt roads and no street numbers, which makes finding people who are suffering from medical emergencies nearly impossible for anyone unfamiliar with the town or driving standard vehicles.


Yaakov overlooking Bat Ayin

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yaakov Meir Fragin is an ambucycle driver who has lived in Bat Ayin his entire life. He runs the local grocery store and knows the town and the surrounding area like the back of his hand. In addition to being an EMT, Yaakov is also part of his town’s emergency preparedness team. His lifesaving skills and intimate knowledge of the area make him the perfect person to respond to any emergency in the vicinity. 


Yaakov’s ambucycle enables him to race down local paths and alleyways to respond to medical emergencies in the town in the fastest time possible.  


Last Wednesday, a young woman was washing her hands at the entrance to the midrasha when she suddenly collapsed in convulsions. Her friends urgently called for help.


The alert came out as an incident occurring on “Hamayanot street” and no further information was given. Being familiar with the area, Yaakov knew exactly where the midrasha was and raced over on his ambucycle, zooming down the dirt path and arriving in mere seconds.


Yakov found the 23-year-old victim collapsed on the ground, semiconscious after having had a seizure. During the uncontrollable convulsions, she had bitten her tongue and there was a large amount of blood pooled in her mouth. Yaakov carefully cleared the fluids from the woman’s mouth to secure and maintain a clear airway. Then, he checked her vitals and was in communication with the nearest ambulance to direct them to the exact location. The ambulance took nearly 20 minutes to arrive, and during the entire time, Yaakov continued to provide treatment. As the woman began to recover, Yaakov learned that she was otherwise healthy and had no prior history of seizures, which made this incident all the more concerning. 


Thankfully, the dedicated volunteer was there right away to treat her and keep her stable until the ambulance crew could arrive and transport her to the hospital. 


To support the work of volunteers like Yaakov please click here:

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EMT Is Called To Birth A Sheep and Delivers Twin Lambs

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Fyza Djuma who lives in the Bedouin town of Arab al-Aramshe on Israel’s northern border was called on Wednesday to assist in a different type of medical emergency. He was called to help birth a sheep.  


“My friend raises sheep,” recounted Fyza, who has been a United Hatzalah volunteer for more than two years. “One of his ewes was due to give birth and went into labor early in the morning. He called the veterinarian who usually assists him in these instances but the veterinarian didn’t answer the phone. My friend then called me and asked if I could come and help.” 

Fyza with the sheep he delivered

Fyza has never helped birth an animal before and has only helped deliver a human baby a handful of times. “I rushed over to see what I could do and it was clear that the sheep was having difficulty with the birthing process. I thought to myself, what are the procedures we do for a regular birth and I tried to use those to guide me. I reached inside the ewe and felt that the lamb was turned sideways. I gently attempted to turn the lamb towards me and helped get it into the right position.” 


Fyza said that his friend was very worried but glad that he was at the scene. “It was a tense moment for my friend who cares for his flock. I was able to help the lamb get into what seemed to me like the proper position and ease it out of its mother. Then I reached back in to try to make sure everything was okay and I felt something else inside that didn’t seem right. It felt like a hoof. I told my friend, “There is another lamb coming”. A few minutes later a second lamb was born. After the birth, we cleaned and cared for the ewe and the lambs, drying them and making sure that they began to suckle.” 


Fyza said that this was not something he ever thought he would do and that his training helped him in the moments that mattered. “I relied on my EMT training to help my friend and his lambs. It goes to show you never know when it will come in handy. I encourage everyone to train to become an EMT and to join United Hatzalah. It is an organization that goes far beyond lifesaving it builds friendships and families and has been one of the greatest things I have ever done.” 


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A Jerusalem First Responder Gets A Taste of Sderot During A Rocket Attack

 My name is Eli Pollack and in addition to being the CEO of United Hatzalah, I am also a volunteer first responder and EMT. On Sunday night, I was visiting the southern town of Netivot to spend time with the local volunteers and help facilitate some new projects for our teams in the Gaza periphery region. I was in the middle of a meeting when we heard about the rocket attacks in the nearby city of Sderot. For me, the surge of adrenaline and fear was just a small taste of what the residents of these areas have been going through for the past 18 years since the first rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against the residents of southern Israel began. 

Eli Pollack

I wrapped up the meeting and left Netivot heading towards Sderot to see if I could lend a hand and help in any way. For me, a resident of Jerusalem, being present during a rocket attack is not a common thing, but there isn’t anyone in Israel who doesn’t know the feeling of shared dread when these attacks occur.


As I was driving towards Sderot, the emergency application on my communication device alerted me to an emergency in my area. The incident was taking place at the Beit Gedi intersection. The alert said that there was a life in danger inside a Nissan vehicle. I had no idea where the intersection was so I put it into Waze. When I picked my head up, I saw a Nissan pulled over on the side of the road. I pulled up behind the vehicle and approached the car. 


Inside the car was a woman who was suffering a severe stress reaction to the attack that had just occurred. “I can’t drive,” she told me. She was in a severe state of shock. “Please take me home,” she asked me as she broke into tears. 


I didn’t think twice. I got into her car and I began driving her home. I asked her where she lived. “In Sderot,” she said. As we drove, I tried to help her calm down by using various breathing techniques and the training I learned from our Psychotrauma volunteers who deal with these types of reactions all of the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much success. I did, however, succeed at bringing her home to the loving embrace of her husband and children who were worried about her. They hadn’t heard from her since the rocket attack. 


This whole experience was incredibly difficult for me as it brought home just how much pain the people living here are in. For me, this was just a taste of the fear and terror that the families here live with on a daily basis. It is very real and it is very damaging. 


I am glad that I was able to provide a little bit of help in this instance and I am proud of all of the volunteers that we have in Sderot and throughout the region who not only live with the fear for their own families, but manage to put it aside and rush out to help others even when they themselves are under the same threat as the people they treat are. It is simply incredible.  


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