“United Hatzalah needs no introduction.” So said Yaakov Shwekey in front of a sold-out audience at the Israel Convention Center in Jerusalem on Thursday night during the benefit concert for United Hatzalah. More than 3,000 people were in attendance at the annual gala concert that has become a mainstay of the Jerusalem cultural scene over Sukkot celebrating its 18th consecutive year. “These guys stop on a dime to help another Jew, another Yid, or just someone who needs help. What more can be said? I hope you have a lot fewer calls.”
Shwekey performed as the headliner in a concert that raised more than one-million dollars in donations for the organization according to a statement made by President and Founder Eli Beer. Mordechai Shapiro, who has been a Jewish Music star since 2013, opened the performance with some of his smash hits that got the crowd rocking. Later in the show, the two performers did a duet to the delight of the crowd. Shapiro said that he was happy to share the stage with Shwekey once again and that he was even more excited to do it in Jerusalem and for a cause as good as United Hatzalah.
Behind the performers, a video played of when Shapiro got up on stage at the age of ten and sang with Shwekey. That was almost two decades ago. Last night they energized the crowd so thoroughly that people didn’t want to leave and Shwekey was asked by an uproarious audience for encore after encore.
Shwekey told the audience that he was happy to be back performing in support of United Hatzalah once again, a feat he had undertaken together with Avraham Fried in 2015. “ Imagine leaving in the middle of a meal to save a life. They have 5,000 volunteers. One of my dear friends backstage Chezi is a volunteer. And they have 5,000 of them. This organization is something special.”
During an interview that Shwekey gave just prior to the show, he said: “Everyone is connected to United Hatzalah. You don’t need to ask me what my connection is to the organization, all of Am Yisrael is connected to it. They save lives. Their volunteers sacrifice their privacy and their time with their families. I have friends who are volunteers and they jump at the call to save Am Yisrael. Anytime the calls come in, during Shabbat, during a simcha, anytime someone in Am Yisrael needs something they jump out and take care of it. There is no better act of loving kindness than to give to others and sacrifice of themselves as they do. So there is a great connection to United Hatzalah that’s for sure.”
He added that he has had experience with United Hatzalah as well as other Hatzalah’s from around the world and that he considers Beer to be “a good friend who he has known for a long time.”
“When you sing, you sing for a lot of different organizations. But one organization that doesn’t need a lot of explanation is United Hatzalah because everyone needs them,” Shwekey added.
Shapiro concurred with Shwekey’s sentiments. “United Hatzalah speaks for itself. The organization and what they do speaks for itself. I myself called them a few months ago for my son who jumped off a bed. The volunteers were there in seconds. They truly are a wonderful organization. I’m happy to be here performing to support them, it is a great opportunity.”
During the concert, which was MC’ed by Israeli television personality Menachem Toker, President Eli Beer got up and asked the audience to pay their respects to the recently murdered Ari Fuld who was killed in a terror attack in Gush Etzion a few days before Yom Kippur. Beer had invited the Fuld family to come as his personal guests to the performance and had them sit next to the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his wife Tammy.
He then published his personal email on the screen for all to see and invited everyone who wants to help save lives and dedicate a day of lifesaving to the people of Israel to send him an email and inquire about how they can help the organization in its life-saving mission across the country.
“We have never had such an electric crowd and a powerful concert as we did this year,” said Beer. “I’ve been doing this a long time and never have we had such a response from the crowd. The place was electric tonight. I want to thank the performers who came and our supporters for helping our volunteers do their job. We need both dedicated and selfless volunteers as well as dedicated and selfless supporters in order to make our organization work and save lives. Thankfully we have a both.”
Just as the concert was ending, EMS volunteers who were in attendance responded to an emergency just outside the building where a 17-year-old teenage boy had fallen over a wall that he was climbing and landed on the cement some 15 feet below. The boy broke both of his legs, and volunteers rushed out of the concert to treat him and put him in one of the organization’s ambulances in order to rush him to the hospital. The incident exemplified the preparedness of the volunteers to drop whatever they are doing and rush out to assist others.