A National Emergency Ambulance Service Based on Volunteers
In the State of Israel’s 70th birthday year it is worth lauding a national institution that serves fulsome mention and that is Magen David Adom.
As I write, today (7th June 2018), marks the 88th anniversary of the formation of the founding charter of MDA in Tel Aviv on Motza’ei Shabbat (Saturday evening) in 1930. Shortly after the War of Independence in 1950, the Knesset (parliament/congress) passed the MDA Law which recognised, in law, the organisation as Israel’s national emergency medical service, the nation’s blood service and its Red Cross organisation, training for disaster preparedness.
“It differs from other Red Cross volunteer based societies in the world in that they do not constitute their national ambulance response services for medical emergencies, “ explained Yoni Yogadovsky, Director of MDA’s international fundraising department. “ The Red Cross in other countries mainly responds to disasters, whether natural or man-made. In addition, other countries’ national ambulance services are not based on volunteers but are either national organisations or private companies with employees, “ he said.
What is astounding is that MDA has trained more than 20,000 current volunteers representing a ratio of 10:1 of its operatives. Many are teenagers who are still at school or people who are involved in full-time jobs but who can drop everything to participate in MDA’s life-saving, emergency work. Volunteers are all paramedics - trained to deal with medical emergencies and respond 24 hours a day.
In addition, the organisation has trained more than 120,000 Israelis in disaster preparedness.
MDA also works internationally as a full member, since 2006, of the International Red Cross Committee and, just last night, one of their senior paramedics flew out to assist the Guetamalan Red Cross with the volcanic disaster in Guatemala. Prior to 2006 MDA had observer status. It operates internationally with its familiar symbol of a red Magen David but inside a diamond shape known as the Crystal which is used by those countries which do not use the symbol of the red cross or crescent.
I have a particular affinity for MDA as my husband Sidney and I responded to the 2000 intifada by raising funds for the organisation in Manchester, UK, after enquiring what was most needed in Israel. Starting with our own synagogue, Hale and District Hebrew Congregation, and with the support of its rabbi, Joel Portnoy, we managed to purchase an armoured ambulance for the Jerusalem district where the worst violence was taking place.
We expanded with my husband as co-chairman and me as vice-chairman, to form a Manchester committee, and were put together with Zionist stalwart, Norman Feingold z’l as president, to run this committee. Our first major event shortly afterwards was a dinner which raised 250,000 pounds under the motto of “Saving Lives”. It was held at the new and architecturally striking Imperial War Museum North where Britain’s then ambassador to Israel, (now Sir) Sherard Cowper-Coles agreed to be guest speaker.
Suzie and the late Ronnie Cohen, a former IDF soldier, were active members of this committee and others joined forces including current chairman, Jeremy Hart and his wife Sharon.
In Israel, we all know how much we rely on MDA to be there at any given moment in any circumstances and can be proud that it treats all irrespective of ethnicity or creed.
Adapted from ESRA magazine £195, July/August 2018.