Within the first few hours of the outbreak of war, United Hatzalah established a large staging area in the south of the country, with dozens of ambulances and mobile intensive care units, along with hundreds of volunteers, to provide medical assistance to the residents of southern Israel. The site includes a command and control center, a logistics center, and more.

On Wednesday morning, President Herzog together with First Lady Michal Herzog visited the staging area along with the President and Founder of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer, the organization’s CEO, Eli Pollak, the VP of Operations, Dovie Maisel, the VP of Volunteers, Lazer Hayman, the VP of Planning and Strategy, Moshe Levy, and others members of senior management who provided an overview of all the life-saving activities carried out by the organization’s volunteers since the beginning of the war.

The President and First Lady spoke with the volunteers who saved lives under fire in the bloody battle zones in the south since the early hours of Shabbat on October 7th, toured the Command and Control Center, the special compound of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, and the packing area of medical and humanitarian equipment that the organization has set up in the field for distribution to families and soldiers in the Gaza periphery.

President Herzog stated, “We are very moved to be here, among this wonderful orange family. I want to thank the volunteers. I know how difficult your work is, especially during these challenging days. I salute you and your organization. You are facing the greatest challenge that our people have experienced since the establishment of the State of Israel. Saving one life saves an entire world so think about how many worlds you are saving and have saved – each and every one of you, and you continue to do so. I encourage the public to support, volunteer, and mobilize. This work is a crucial part of the rescue and emergency system of the State of Israel, and I thank you for it. I sincerely hope that we will return to normal days, defeat the enemy, and of course that we will strengthen the IDF soldiers and fighters, with as few casualties as possible and that you will continue your vital work during times of routine. Thank you to each and every one of you, you are heroes in your own right.”

Volunteer EMT Yaakov Malka, who risked his life to save a policeman, shared his experience with the President, and during their conversation, the policeman arrived and warmly thanked him for saving his life.

Eli Beer remarked, “I mentioned to the President and the First Lady that as far as I’m concerned, the cursed day of October 7th didn’t end, it is still going on. The images of our volunteers running from the synagogue with their tallits, like in the Yom Kippur War, never leave me. I see the admirable dedication of the volunteers from all over the country. Each of them comes from a different part of Israeli society, but in the field, when it comes to saving lives, they unite, and show mutual respect and solidarity. In these days, United Hatzalah symbolizes true unity. This is a special opportunity to thank the President of the State of Israel and the First Lady, along with the organization’s supporters in Israel and around the world, for their unwavering support all along the way.”

Eli Pollak shared, “I told the President the difficult and chilling story of the head of the Sderot branch, Nahorai Darshan, and the volunteer Chaim Sassi, who was seriously injured while trying to save a policeman near the police station in Sderot. Chaim Sassi was seriously injured by the terrorists. We also remembered the late Awad Mosa Darawshy, an angel from the Nazareth branch, who was murdered by terrorists while he was providing medical assistance during the rave party in Re’im. The President was deeply moved. I thank the honorable President and First Lady for the support and warm embrace they extended today to our dedicated volunteers.”

Danny Shmuel, head of the Gaza periphery branch of United Hatzalah, told the President, “That morning, we sensed that something unusual was happening. During the first barrage, all the electricity in the kibbutz went out. At 6:45 A.M., the head of security informed me of a terrorist infiltration. We engaged in a tough battle with 12 terrorists, and we lost friends, good people. Since there were many wounded in the area, and we couldn’t evacuate them, I set up a field hospital at my house. While using our communications device, I heard a dedicated volunteer from the branch go out to treat the wounded, and since then, he has disappeared, and we don’t know what happened to him. His wife gave birth a few days later.”

At the end of the tour, the President and First Lady visited the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit compound in the staging area. There, they received an overview of the activities of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit since Saturday, October 7th.

In the compound, the President met Dr. Tarek, a volunteer who was shot by terrorists while treating the wounded in the middle of the road. He was then tied to a pole and used as a human shield by the terrorists, who continued their murderous spree against drivers on the road.