On December 1st, 2019, the lives of the Rimel family were devastated when an Arab driver hit their car at high speed, killing Tzipi Rimel and her three-week-old daughter Noam Rimmel. The accident, which took place on Highway 443 near Givat Ze’ev, left the father Ephraim Rimel crippled and the son, Etai Rimel, in a coma in critical condition. Ephraim and Etai were treated at the scene for their injuries by United Hatzalah volunteers who responded to the emergency. They were then transported to Shaare Zedek Hospital for further care and treatment.
Etai recovered slowly and required numerous surgeries to repair the damage done to his body. Eventually, he lost his left leg from the knee down. Like his father Ephraim, Etai now requires a wheelchair to get around. Six months after the horrific accident, Etai who was 12 years old at the time, was released from Shaare Zedek Hospital after recovering. He is continuing to undergo intense rehabilitation therapy at Alyn Hospital.
At the time of the accident, no one was sure if Etai would survive and if he did, whether he would ever be able to talk again. In November 2020, after persevering through his operations and arduous rehabilitative efforts, Itai not only celebrated his Bar Mitzvah but in an action that shocked everyone, he read from the Torah. The Bar Mitzvah was held on the same day as the memorial service for Tzipi and Noam.
As a present for his bar mitzvah, Etai’s cousins, Yaakov and Sari Sheinfeld and family, donated an emergency ambucycle to United Hatzalah in Etai’s honor. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the dedication ceremony for the ambucycle was delayed until this past Sunday. The Sheinfelds, who live in Teaneck, New Jersey, were unable to attend in person, but Etai’s Israeli family was present including his grandfather Yogi Rimel who is himself a United Hatzalah volunteer in Beit Shemesh.
Sari Sheinfeld said that there was a lot of motivation behind making the donation in honor of Etai’s Bar Mitzvah. “We wanted to recognize the role that first responders play and how critical a difference just a few minutes makes. There was no better way to recognize what a miracle it was to be able to celebrate Etai’s Bar Mitzvah and we wanted to be able to contribute so that others may also benefit and be given the ability to make it to their next milestone as well.”
Etai’s father Ephraim spoke about the dedication and how thankful he is to be part of this event. “It’s a great experience for us to be here. Only a year ago we were in need of help from United Hatzalah volunteers and now we are part of an event that gives back. This (ambucycle) will help United Hatzalah do more good and save more lives and it’s terrific to be a part of that. Of the many presents that Etai got for his Bar Mitzvah, this one will likely last the most and make the biggest impact. An opportunity to do good in the world, not only for one’s self but for the good of everyone else is something that is terrific to be a part of.”
The dedication took place at United Hatzalah’s Headquarters in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, and in the presence of the organization’s CEO Eli Pollack, Chairman Moshe Teitelbaum, and Vice President Dov Maisel. President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer, couldn’t be on hand, as he too is currently in the United States, but he sent a special video message to Etai and his family in honor of the joyous occasion.
A very special volunteer, who also lost the lower part of his leg in a motor vehicle accident, Eli Almoznino, was on hand to greet and encourage Etai. “You must always keep going forward,” Almoznino told Etai. “You can do anything you set your mind to. Look at me. I am missing my leg and I decided that this cannot hold me back but instead I use it to people me further. I am a first responder, I play basketball and soccer on a weekly basis, and I don’t allow this to hold me back. It’s a part of who I am now. I consider the accident the beginning of the new me, my new birthday,” Almoznio added. In addition to being a first responder and dispatcher for United Hatzalah, Almoznino heads the organization’s Missing Person’s Search and Rescue Unit and in such capacity goes all over the country to assist the police in organizing United Hatzalah volunteers in searching for missing persons, something which he himself also takes part in.
Almoznino gave the Rimel family his phone number and invited Etai to play a basketball game once Etai feels ready.
Talking about the meeting between Etai and Almoznino, Ephraim said, “One of the most meaningful aspects of the visit today was meeting Eli Almoznino who is also an amputee. I think Etai has already realized that he can do whatever he wants and that he can be successful despite the physical challenges that are in front of him. But for him to see that he could also be a volunteer of United Hatzalah, and be a part of an organization that one would think requires a lot of physical activity in order to help others, is also a boost in his rehabilitation. Hopefully, by the time he will be finished with his rehab he will find his own way to help and inspire others.”
Etai’s grandfather and United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yogi Rimel added: “One of the least publicized ideas about United Hatzalah is that this is one big family. I’ve been part of the organization since it began and I can say that there is no other organization that I know of that cares for all of its members like family. The night of the accident, people from the organization came that day and stayed with us. The ambulance crew and volunteers who helped Etai came back to visit him numerous times. More than that, members of the administration of the organization sat with us that day and made sure that we had everything that we needed and whatever had to be done was done. United Hatzalah is not just about getting to the scene and helping others as fast as possible, it is also about helping its own volunteers with everything they need, even during their darkest hours. That is what being a family means.”
To support the work of United Hatzalah volunteers please click here: