A month ago, three-year-old Ashdod boy named Asher Miari suddenly went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing in a park at 11 P.M. as his parents watched in horror. Fortunately and amazingly, a volunteer medic for United Hatzalah of Israel (UH) – which provides emergency medical response within minutes of any medical emergency for free – was less than a minute away. Within 40 seconds, the toddler was connected to a defibrillator and – with help from a UH colleague – was revived and rushed in critical condition to the hospital.
His parents were glad he survived but worried what his brain function would be. In a one-in-a-million occurrence thanks to the speedy response, the child is today completely normal.
Asher appeared with his parents on the verdant green lawn of Beit Hanassi (President’s Residence) on Wednesday afternoon to present flowers to the medics who saved him –Raphael Alima and Yohai Cohen. President Isaac Herzog put the boy on his lap as First Lady Michal Herzog looked on. As UH director-general Eli Pollak CEO called them to the stage, many of those present had tears in their eyes.
So did UH founder and president Eli Beer, who as a child first became aware of the need for urgent emergency rescues when he witnessed a bus exploded by terrorists in his Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Vegan. After taking a Magen David Adom lifesaving course as a teen and riding ambulances, he decided that arrival within 90 seconds was vital by using ambucycles. Now they also have helicopters, boats, jeeps, ATVs, and ambulances with the most advanced medical equipment.
Saving another six million
Beer was determined to save six million Jews. UH surpassed that figure, as little Asher was among the nearly seven million people treated by the medical emergency rescuers since 2005 –750,000 in the past year alone.
The special ceremony, attended by some 250 orange-vested volunteers, employees and supporters from Israel and around the world was held to kick off the 18th (Chai) year of operations of United Hatzalah, Israel’s leading all-volunteer emergency medical service organization.
“In these 18 years, you have built United Hatzalah as a dynamic, young, and innovative organization – an organization that lives among the people and is constantly improving, growing, developing, and inspiring similar rescue organizations around the world. You have become not only a life-saving organization but a life-building organization.”
Herzog continued that the behavior by Israelis brawling over Kol Nidrei outdoors prayers at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center over whether services should be held with gender separation was shocking. But UH – which has 7,000 trained Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, secular, modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox volunteers, men and women working together in harmony 365 days and nights a year present a different reality that should be adopted by all Israelis.
“When we hear the phrase Start-Up Nation, the first image that comes to our mind is of spacious offices, of screens loaded with lines of code, and of business meetings that close huge deals. But when I hear this phrase, I also think of thousands of orange-clad volunteers, who, thanks to advanced technology and a smart and bold vision, abandon their work whenever an emergency alert comes in, and race towards an ambitious and important goal like no other: providing first aid in just 90 seconds, in moments when life and death are decided by the hands on a clock,” the president said.
“Like other innovative ideas that have changed our lives, the idea behind United Hatzalah was born out of an absence, out of a search for a practical way to prevent suffering and loss, and out of a refusal to accept reality as a matter of course. It was born out of the realization that many lives could be saved – if only we improved our starting point in the crucial race against the clock,” he concluded.
During the event, the organization recognized and thanked 10 of its steadfast supporters who were selected by a committee from United Hatzalah’s board members together with Chairman Mark Gerson.