United Hatzalah is based upon a large number of Haredi people who volunteer to save the lives of others.

In Israel, one can often hear complaints that the Haredi segment of the populace is not doing its part to give back to national projects. However, the volunteer EMS organization United Hatzalah which has a large percentage of Haredi volunteer EMS personnel is proving that this is not always the case. The life saving work of the Haredi volunteers of United Hatzalah is changing  the way in which Israelis look at the Haredi sector, while the volunteers save lives across the entire country and at any given moment.    

While the stigmas regarding the Haredi community continue to permeate Israeli society, large numbers of Haredim volunteer in life saving organizations such as United Hatzalah and many of them have been doing so for upwards of three years. The Haredi volunteers spend each day at the ready, willing to drop everything at the first sign of trouble and rush to the scene of an emergency to save lives.This readiness is maintained around-the-clock and is done on a completely volunteer basis. The Chairman of United Hatzalah, Ze’ev Kashash, has been part of the organization from its inception and relayed how a small community project that began in a Haredi neighborhood of Jerusalem has developed into a national organization that is continuing to develop into more and more communities and cities around the country.

“United Hatzalah is a volunteer organization whose goal is to arrive within just a few seconds to every injured or sick person, to provide them with life-saving first aid treatment until an ambulance can arrive at the scene,” Kashash explained. “This is a community based response program. Our EMS responders can be an EMT, a paramedic or a doctor who is involved in their regular day-to-day lives and who happens to be near by the medical emergency. We make them aware of the incident and give them the information about what happened and they rush to the scene while  in contact with United Hatzalah’s command and control center. Every one of our volunteers carries with them a medical kit containing all of the instruments and supplies that they will need to be able to respond to any call and save lives,” Kashash elucidated. “That is our goal, to save lives and provide a first response so as to prevent irreversible physical damage to the patient at hand.”         

Kashash has been working in the field since 1998 when he drove an ambulance. One incident that occurred in his neighborhood changed the way in which he approached volunteer EMS responses. “I was in my neighborhood when a catastrophe happened that involved a child and the EMS teams were not able to save him,” recalled  Kashash. “We learned that we need people within our own community who possess the equipment and training to be first responders and who can arrive at the scene of an emergency much faster than an ambulance can arrive.  I took an EMT course and I joined United Hatzalah.”

Kashash explained how that situation repeated itself and the idea developed in numerous communities all over the country. “At the beginning the various organizations by the name of Hatzalah were working in sporadic Haredi neighborhoods, but they worked only there,” Kashash said. “Each organization worked on its own and there was no connection between the various groups. The whole thing coalesced during the Second  Lebanon War in 2006.”

“During the war many of the volunteers from the different groups headed north to help with injured victims of Hezbollah rocket attacks that peppered the northern region of Israel. We saw that there were many volunteers but they were unable to work together as they did not have a way to contact one another. We therefore decided to unify all of the different Hatzalah groups under one umbrella organization so that volunteers across the entire country could work together, and thus United Hatzalah was formed.”

The success of the organization really picked up with the unification and people began to see the success rate of United Hatzalah rescue skyrocket. “Once the public began to see how well we were working together in the Haredi communities, we began to receive requests from cities and communities outside of the Haredi world. Today we are able to work on achieving the goal of having a United Hatzalah volunteer empowered with the training and EMS materials needed to save a life on almost every street corner in the country.”

Kashash added that currently United Hatzalah can boast “3,000 volunteer doctors, paramedics and EMT’s who are on call 24/7 in order to save a life and can be dispatched via the state-of-the -art technology system that can locate each volunteer at all times and send them to the location of an emergency.”


When asked whether it is important to him that people know how hard the Haredi communities worked to create United Hatzalah Kashash responded by saying that “I think that United Hatzalah as an organization has a  different job. Nowadays our mission is to save lives from all segments of the population no matter who the person is, it is why we are called “United”. While the basis for the organization was formed in the Haredi communities due to the difficulties that the Haredi volunteers faced in joining up with volunteer services in organizations that were not appropriate for their chosen lifestyle and the did not adhere necessarily to Jewish Law. However the desire of the Haredi populace to volunteer and serve for the betterment of the people in the nation is huge.”

Kashash said that the issue is one of feeling accepted. “A Haredi person feels at ease when they have their own place where in they feel natural. The Haredi community is divided into numerous subsections and groups, United Hatzalah is the organization that stands with the backing of all Haredi Rabbis and community leaders,” Kashash said.

The organization boasts a council of Jewish law, which accompanies the volunteers who go out to save lives and are available at all times including on Shabbatot and Yom Kippur should the need arise. “Our volunteers need to know how to approach certain cases from the proper perspective of Jewish law as well as the proper medical approach,” said Kashash. “The volunteers are trained in this as well and the rabbinic council are always there for guidance” he added.

“There is therefore a consensus for all Haredim who want to volunteer in United Hatzalah that they will be able to volunteer and fulfill the idiom ‘to save one life is to save an entire world’. Our volunteers can maintain the most advanced medical approach while at the same time knowing that they will still be able to uphold the proper way of life for a Haredi person.”  

Ze'ev Kashash Chairman of United Hatzalah
Ze’ev Kashash Chairman of United Hatzalah

Whether a person considers themselves Haredi or not, when it comes to saving your life, it doesn’t matter who the person is who is taking care of you. The ability of United Hatzalah to establish thousands of volunteers, many of whom use advanced ambucycles (motorcycles equipped with ambulance equipment and supplies) that are capable of reaching injured or sick persons and providing medical treatment in a matter of minutes anywhere in the country is something that is completely unprecedented. For Moshe Sa’adon, the head of the Elad chapter of United Hatzalah, the experience is one which provides great satisfaction.

“I have been volunteering since 2001 in Elad, a Haredi city that was established some 18 years ago. Most of the volunteers at the beginning weren’t from the city itself. We had a core group of three or four volunteers who built the chapter here and developed the style for our chapter. Due to the Haredi community and Elad’s being considered a ‘young town’ most of the situations we deal with here are sick children or children who have been injured in some way.”

In order to provide the best coverage for the people in Elad and for the unique challenges that face EMTs who need to deal with injured children, Sa’adon volunteers round the clock. “I am always on call. I integrate my work and my readiness to answer the call at a moment’s notice in order to go and save someone’s life. There are always calls for help, even when you are at home and eating dinner with the family r in the middle of a good night’s sleep. The work is  round-the-clock, but it gives such a great level of satisfaction to know that you are saving people’s lives.”

Moshe Sa'adon - Head of Elad Chapter of United Hatzalah
Moshe Sa’adon – Head of Elad Chapter of United Hatzalah

“I don’t volunteer so that people will congratulate me or give me thanks. While it gives me personal satisfaction, the real issue is about saving lives. When I arrive somewhere, such as Tel Aviv, and people see a Haredi man arrive on a United Hatzalah ambucycle to the scene of an emergency they sometimes look at me askew and think to themselves ‘where did this guy come from’?”

“It is important that people recognize the real work that we do. It is important to me that people  know that this group in society exists as well, the group that will go out of their way and volunteer their time in order to provide a medical response to anyone who needs it, and we do it on a voluntary basis and free of charge. We don’t expect or want anything in return.”             

The advantages of United Hatzalah is first and foremost in the speed of their response time. They can provide first aid medical treatment that can save people’s lives and  prevent further trauma in under three minutes. Effy Feldman, the head of the Bnei Brak chapter spoke about why this is of the utmost importance.

Effy Feldman - Head of Bnei Brak Chapter of United Hatzalah (Left)
Effy Feldman – Head of Bnei Brak Chapter of United Hatzalah (Left)


“In Bnei Brak we have achieved the ability to arrive at the scene of any emergency in under 90 seconds. We provide first aid treatment within the accepted traditional approach of the Haredi lifestyle. We work within the community and that is the greatest thing about our activity. From the community for the community. I hear many times that people say that the Haredi community is not bearing its weight and is not fulfilling its equal obligation to give back to society. But when I look around at the Haredi volunteers of United Hatzalah who are providing medical first aid all across the country, I am filled with pride. I am proud to see Haredim giving back to society every single day, to all Israelis, and giving back in a way that fulfills the highest of ethos – to save lives.”