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Emergency Export

Eliyahu Ackerman

The Jewish state is known for its high-tech advances, but the world is intrigued by another Israeli innovation – cutting down response time in a life-and-death crisis. One city across the Hudson searched for a better way to deal with medical emergencies, and turned to the Jerusalem-based United Hatzalah: “If it works for you, why not us?”

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

It’s April 13, andEliBeer is standing before a TEDMED audience of thousands at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Just days earlier, terrorists had detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 200. The photos of the explosion,Beer tells the audience, take him back to his own youth in Jerusalem. One day, when he was six years old, he was walking home from school when he saw a bus explode. As survivors of the bombing staggered out, one elderly man saw littleEli and called for help. Frozen and scared,Eli ran away. The moment never left him, and when he was 15,Beer volunteered for Magen David Adom as an ambulance crew member. He wanted to save lives.  “I helped many people, but I also noticed that when someone truly needed help, we never arrived in time,”Beer told TEDMED, an offshoot of the popularTED lecture series. “We simply weren’t able to get there. Traffic in the streets was very heavy, and the distances were too great.” The consequences of the systematic limitations came to a head one day, when he received a call about a seven-year-old boy who was choking on a hot dog. Traffic was terrible and it took 20 minutes before his ambulance arrived. He and his partner immediately began resuscitation. “A doctor who lived nearby stopped next to us, checked the boy, and told us to stop trying to resuscitate him; he had already died,” Beer told TEDMED. “At that moment, I understood that the child had died in vain. If that doctor, who lived only one block away from the scene, had arrived 20 minutes earlier instead of leaving his home only when he heard the ambulance siren, he could have saved the boy’s life. It was so simple, and it was so frustrating.” That’s how United Hatzalah, an organization with 2,500 volunteers in Israel alone, was born. ThoughBeer wasn’t the first to create a volunteer emergency services force (a Williamsburg chassid is credited with the original insight) he has brought it further than anyone else. Ubiquitous in Israel, spread far and wide in Jewish communities across the globe, this latest Israeli innovation is now being exported to the entire world.   

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