Last Thursday afternoon, an excited group of people walked into the national headquarters of United Hatzalah, Israel’s national volunteer emergency medical services organization. They were visitors from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach Florida and were excited to meet the volunteers and staff that make up the organization that their federation proudly supports.

“As we learned about the work that United Hatzalah does, their involvement in saving lives every day, we were very moved,” said Marla Egers, one of the members of the Israel and Overseas Committee of the Federation.  “The work of the organization motivated us to donate an ambucycle on behalf of our community earlier this year,” she added.

Members of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach Florida stand next to the ambucycle that they donated
Members of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach Florida stand next to the ambucycle that they donated

The Israel and Overseas Committee of the Federation supervises the distribution of funding in Israel and other places. “The Federation has decided to add on to their main donations, which go through the Jewish Agency, and allocate additional funding for the committee to choose special projects that we feel allow us to develop a sophisticated relationship with Israel’s modern needs. We have therefore chosen certain organizations that have a positive influence, are life affirming, innovative, and set an example for our people back home, to have a more modern and knowledgeable view of how problems are being addressed in Israel,” said Eric Stein, Chief of the Committee, who is also an officer of the Federation.

One of the highlights of the visit for the Federation members was meeting the ambucycle driver, Avraham Tzelik, who received the ambucycle they donated. Tzelik told the group about a recent rescue story in which he participated. “I was at prayer in our local synagogue when we received a call about an unconscious person located nearby. I was able to race over, together with another EMT, and we began CPR. We were performing CPR on the person for a full fifteen minutes before an ambulance arrived. Thanks to the ambucycle you donated, we were able to get there incredibly quickly and save the person’s life.”

Members of the Federation pose together with United Hatzalah Ambucycle driver
Members of the Federation pose together with United Hatzalah Ambucycle driver

“The reason why United Hatzalah strikes a chord with Federations and other Jewish organizations across the United States, as well as in other countries, is because of the people,” said Dovie Maisel, United Hatzalah’s International Director of Operations. “The whole purpose of United Hatzalah is people. It is people helping people. Everything else is tools. When a group like this comes to Israel, they meet the heart of the organization and understand that each person who volunteers here has a story. Each one of our 3,000 volunteers has a story that drove them to take part in the organization. This group got to meet two of our volunteers and hear a small bit about their personal stories. That was a very touching and moving experience for them and they understood that this is the power and the heart of this organization.”

During the ceremony to inaugurate the newest ambucycle for United Hatzalah, Stein raised a toast to the organization. “We were thrilled to partner with United Hatzalah,” said Stein. “With all the wonderful people who work here, we are happy to be a part of the life-saving work that you do. L’Chaim.”

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Another committee member, Dana Vizner, spoke about how much of a personal impact the organization has made on the Federation. “It wasn’t a difficult decision for us to choose to partner with United Hatzalah,” Vizner said. “We have known of the work that your organization does first hand. One of our committee members was on a trip a few months ago, and another trip participant fell ill. United Hatzalah responded so quickly, even before the ambulance.”

Shai Jaskoll, the Deputy Director of International Relations at United Hatzalah, told the visiting Federation members that the inauguration of the ambucycle is just the beginning. “This is not something that is finished today with your donation,” he said. “This is the beginning of a relationship between you and Avraham. You are both partners in life-saving. Your donation now enables him to save lives and that is something that will continue from now on.”

At the culmination of the ceremony, Eric handed the keys to the ambucycle over to Avraham and said, “I’m happy to give you this ambucycle on behalf of the entire Federation of South Palm Beach. We hope that you will never have need of it.”

The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach has joined the growing list of Jewish Federations, Philanthropic Foundations and other community organizations around the Jewish world that are stepping up to become partners in life-saving in Israel. As the number of donating organizations increases, the amount of EMTs adopted and ambucycles donated to the organization rises, causing more lives to be saved. Recently, United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer has tasked the organization with providing a national average response time of 90 seconds. To do this, the organization needs to double the number of volunteers throughout the country from 3,000 to 6,000, and likewise needs to more than double the number of ambucycles. “As United Hatzalah is 100% privately funded by donors, in order to reach the goal that we have been tasked with we need to double in size. That means that every donation and every partnership is essential to our goal of saving lives.”

Currently, United Hatzalah has achieved a national average response time of under three minutes. In certain densely populated urban areas, such as Jerusalem and parts of Tel Aviv, the organization has already reached the 90-second threshold, due to the use of its innovative technology, community-based volunteer responders, and of course its signature ambucycles.