Hundreds of EMTs, dozens of paramedics and doctors, as well as numerous emergency transport vehicles are ready and waiting to be spread across the town of Meron and accompanying hillside ahead of this weekend’s festivities celebrating the 33rd day of the Omer on the Jewish calendar. The yearly holiday is the single largest gathering in Israel each year, and this year’s celebration is expected to see upwards of 300,000 people gather around the grave of Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai in honor of the day.

The United Hatzalah tent and emergency clinic set up in Meron
The United Hatzalah tent and emergency clinic set up in Meron

United Hatzalah’s EMS teams are tasked with providing on-scene medical services to all of the visitors present. Round-the-clock shifts have been set up in order to ensure safety and treat any injuries that may befall attendees. Heads of the organization have been attending collaborative meetings with other organizations such as the municipal and national government, the police, Fire and Rescue Services and the national ambulance service in order to ensure public safety.  

The event is set to begin on Thursday afternoon when many of the pilgrims will make their way to the town for the weekend. Volunteers will stay on site until Monday morning as many celebrants will be staying past the last bonfires lit on Sunday evening.

Volunteer EMS personnel on watch during last year's event
Volunteer EMS personnel on watch during last year’s event

The operational division of United Hatzalah has already set up its mobile command center which acts as the center of activities during the festival. Volunteers from all over the country who will be taking part in the operation have been assigned to shifts and briefed about special points of interest as well as solutions to issues that have come up during previous years’ celebrations.

The organization’s ambucycle unit will be forming a protective perimeter around the mountain allowing volunteers to provide immediate response to any and all medical emergencies. This includes the various parking lots that have been set up to accommodate visitors and that usually suffer from major traffic congestion. Special ATVs will also be used in transporting volunteers to and from emergencies, and if needed, will carry patients out of a crowded area and bring them to the temporary clinic set up on site by the organization to triage and treat patients requiring immediate response.

Head of the Operations Division, David Krispel, sent a special announcement to the volunteers regarding the lessons learned from previous years. “As part of the lessons that we have learned from previous years’ experiences and successes, we have set up 800 signs across the mountainside that will help those in need of assistance notify a local responder as to their exact location. These signs have been set up in 97 different locations, near the gravesite, in the parking lots, in the town, and even on the surrounding hillside. The organization is bringing six doctors, one per shift, who will be able to provide emergency care at the clinic that has been erected.”

The Meron operation is taking place during the organization’s Chinese Auction which ends on May 23rd. Participants at the Meron event will be invited to participate in the auction and help support the huge life-saving effort to provide nationwide EMS response on an average of three minutes or less.

UH EMS personnel preparing gear for the upcoming festival
UH EMS personnel preparing gear for the upcoming festival

Eli Beer, President and Founder of United Hatzalah said regarding the operation that, “Our volunteers have proven their metal during the Meron operation in previous years, and we will be doubling our efforts this year in order to increase our level of preparedness and the speed of our response during the event. It is because of the dedication of our volunteers and our supporters that we can offer our services to help protect those celebrating the day and visiting the site during the holiday. I hope that the weekend of festivities passes without incident, but I know that if something does occur, and people do require medical attention, then our volunteers will be first on scene ready to help those in need.”

Beer said that the organization is thankful to those who partner with United Hatzalah each year to make this operation a success. Among those he thanked are the Israeli Police, the Director of The National Center for the Protection of Israel’s Holy Places Yossi Shwinger, Yisrael Deri, the Fire and Rescue Services and others. “Thanks to their assistance, our volunteers will be allowed to act in the fastest and most efficient way possible in order to provide the care that the public needs. I encourage anyone who needs assistance in Meron during the holiday to contact one of the volunteers on scene or call our emergency number of 1221 to receive assistance from the nearest EMS volunteer.”