The night before Rosh Hashanah, United Hatzalah volunteers from the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem received a call for assistance to help search for a high-risk missing person. The missing person, a 92-year-old man living with Alzheimer’s, had wandered off from his home sometime after 5 p.m.
Police forces were very concerned for his welfare as teams had been searching for him for a number of hours, night had fallen and it had begun to get cold outside. At approximately 11 p.m. United Hatzalah dispatch received simultaneous calls from the police duty officer and the Security Manager for the Jerusalem Municipality requesting urgent assistance with the search.
The organization immediately dispatched a team of volunteer EMTs, paramedics and doctors some of whom traveled in their own private cars while others searched while riding ambucycles. Additionally, the Israelife Etzion Search and Rescue team was activated and a joint command post was set up with police near the man’s home on Mendele Mocher Seforim St in Rechavia.
Volunteers formed teams who searched on foot, by ambucycle and with SUVs. A coordinated effort was launched across vast areas of central Jerusalem in an effort to find the missing elderly man.
Just after 3 a.m. the efforts and the search paid off. United Hatzalah volunteer EMT and ambucycle driver Avremi Friedman radioed in and said that he had found the man lying on the edge of a roadway 2 kilometers away from his house.
“After doing an extensive search of the likely locations that this man may have gone, someone mentioned that he liked to frequent the national library in the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. I headed over there on my ambucycle. For me it was a drive of just a few minutes. I arrived and asked the guard if he had seen anything. He replied in the negative and so I continued my search down Museum Row, just outside of the campus. After a few moments of driving I saw two vehicles parked with their lights on and a group of young women outside of their cars. Next to the cars I saw something on the road. I thought there had been a car accident. As I pulled up to the scene the young women told me that they had been driving in the opposite lane and seen something on the road. They turned around and found this man lying on the street. They had no idea what to do.”
Avremi said that the incident ended with a certain ironic twist. “As I picked up my phone to look at the photo of the missing man, I realized it was this individual lying on the street before me. I checked his vital signs which were all in order. I tried calling Dr. Adam Ballin, the United Hatzalah volunteer who was spearheading the search, and right as I was calling him to tell him I found the missing person, he was calling me to tell me that all of the search parties were calling it quits for the night and that the search would resume in the morning. Adam I said, don’t call anything off, I found him. Adam thought I was pulling his leg for a moment, but as I restated what I had just told him, he was shocked. He rushed over and sent the rest of the rescue teams to my location. Both he and another doctor, Doron Shpirer, checked the man’s vitals before the police returned him to his family.”
Avremi reflected on the events of the evening. “The work we do is selfless and holy. We rarely get thanks, but once in awhile patients do thank us. In this instance, the patient had no idea what was happening. He had no clue that he was in danger of being run over by a truck while lying on the road, and he had no idea that he was even missing. This entire mission is one that we will never be thanked for by the person whom we helped, and that shows us that this is really the highest calling of all. Doing an act of loving-kindness for someone who can never repay you, nor even thank you, is a truly Godly act, and that is what I love about the work that I do as a volunteer with United Hatzalah.”
Medical first responders and a police cruiser were dispatched to the location. After an on-site assessment, the man’s injuries appeared to be light so he was brought to his house for positive identification. The man’s wife and son were overcome with joy on being reunited with their husband and father.
The man underwent a thorough physical examination by Dr. Doron Shpirer, a United Hatzalah volunteer who lives in the area. Dr. Shpirer ascertained that other than some minor cuts and abrasions, the man was in good shape and would be able to stay at home. His family invited the volunteers up for a warm drink and celebratory apples dipped in honey, a customary food for the holiday.
“This was another tragedy averted thanks to the caring and selflessness of our volunteers,” said United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer. “This Rosh Hashanah, a family is whole again because our selfless volunteers gave up hours of their precious family time in order to help a man who was in a dire situation and needed urgent help. Our volunteers dropped everything and answered the call. Something which they do time and again. I am proud of each and every one of them.”