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Open Hearts in the War Zone

Rachel Ginsberg

For the past ten years, a group of American Hatzolah paramedics and EMTs has been training with Magen David Adom — Israel’s national emergency service, considered the most experienced and advanced in emergency medical response to terrorist attacks, chemical attacks, and other disasters. The idea was that if a war were to break out and MDA’s resources were channeled to the battlefield, this team would be called on. Last month, it actually happened. And now, they can finally disclose the details

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Over the last ten years more than 150 HEART (Hatzolah Emergency Ambulance Response Team) members from theUnited Stateshave been trained inIsraelby MDA, which is recognized worldwide as the most experienced and advanced in coordinating emergency medical response to terrorist attacks, chemical attacks, and other disasters. HEART team members knew that should a war break out, they would be called upon to provide the necessary care as part of the emergency services of MDA — whose staff and resources would be depleted by army reserve call-ups and a heightened call volume due to death and injury from terror and missile attacks.

November 15, 2012 The day after hostilities erupted betweenIsrael andGaza, MDA officials requested that HEART deploy volunteers toIsrael without delay. Coordinators Eli Rowe, Michael Vatch, and Simcha Shain had just a few hours to mobilize their men.

“Anyone ready to commit and able to be wheels-up within eight hours of notification please read below,” stated an e-mail that paramedic and mission commander Eli Rowe sent out to 100 HEART members that Thursday afternoon. It continued, “If you are available for deployment tonight, please respond ASAP. We are currently assessing the situation with our contacts inIsrael.… As before, airfare would be on you; the rest is taken care of. You will need current EMT or MEDIC certification … sleeping bag, helmet, disposable trauma gloves, and tallis/tefillin.…

“HEART deployments have serious risk including the loss of life chas v’shalom and by responding to this and volunteering and joining the team, you understand and agree that you will be going entirely on your own choice and assume all responsibility for any risks or losses that could result from this trip.… If you are married you will need consent from your wife allowing your participation and acknowledging the risks involved.… This is not a chizuk, touring, or fun trip.… You will likely be sleeping in your boots and clothing for days straight.…”

Eli Rowe, CEO of a large data company, is no stranger to disaster zones. Two years ago he, together with HEART founder and leader Shlomo Zakheim, joined forces with the IDF field hospital inHaitiafter the country’s devastating earthquake which wiped out much ofPort-au-Prince. But when it’s your own brothers, he says, it’s a whole different ballgame. 


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