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United Hatzalah Of Israel Founder Eli Beer Turned Painful Experience Into Lifesaving Mission

Thursday January 26, 2012 1:18 PM - Leave a Comment

eli-beer-united-hatzolahWitnessing a bus being blow up in front of him had a life-changing effect on Eli Beer. He was just 5 years old and living in Israel, where he was born, with his American-born parents.

“Many were hurt and killed,” he remembers, even now a painful experience to discuss. “It’s something I can’t forget. There were people yelling and asking for our help. I decided I wanted to save people’s lives. At the first opportunity, when I was 16, I joined an ambulance crew.”

But Beer found that response times were slow and that people were dying even when an ambulance was on its way. So he organized a “bunch of volunteers” to create a community of first responders. That was more than 20 years ago. Today, those first responders number 1,700 and take 500 emergency calls a day, without charging those they help.

Known as United Hatzalah of Israel, it is a nonprofit organization where all volunteers are trained in life-saving procedures and equipped with what they call “ambucycles,” bicycles that can navigate tricky pathways that ambulance drivers might be unable to negotiate.

Beer was recently in Palm Beach as the guest of Dr. Michael and Edith Gelfand, who are avid supporters of his cause.

“We passionately believe in the lifesaving mission of United Hatzalah of Israel and have been proud supporters of the organization for several years,” Michael Gelfand said.

“We were honored to have Eli Beer here in Palm Beach and to help spread the word among our community and friends about this extraordinary cause,” Edith Gelfand added.

Beer’s volunteers treated 192,000 people last year alone, he said, stressing that the goal of his group is “to get there within 2 minutes, for free.” He said that contrasts with American ambulances that try to meet an 8- to 9-minute response time. (The average response time for ambulances in Palm Beach in 2011 was “a little over 5 minutes,” Deputy Fire-Rescue Chief Darrel Donatto said. Actually, it’s 5 minutes and 9 seconds.)

And the creation of this extraordinary group of volunteers in Israel has had an unexpected effect on Beer’s own life.

“My 11-year-old daughter, Libby, went into anaphylactic shock in her school,” he said.

“One of the kids had brought in something she was allergic to. Hatzalah saved her life. Who would think that one day this would have helped save my daughter.”

{Palm Beach Daily News/Matzav.com Newscenter}

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