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Jewish News 12 September 2019

Magen David Adom

for 70 years


Building work takes place on MDA’s new national blood centre

Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency services, turned 70 this year – but still thinks up one lifesaving scheme after another


IFE IN ISRAEL is often one of split realities between a modern hub of innovation and age old conflict. But the country’s emergency services are hoping to bring the two together by using new technology to save lives amid the daily risk of rocket attacks. Israel’s iconic Magen David Adom (MDA), which turned 70 this year, is staffed by some 24,000 volunteers and receives no government funding. Yet huge technological leaps have kept it ahead of the curve on emergency care. Its most ambitious project to date is a national blood centre built 15 metres below ground that is capable of operating while under direct threat. The centre is due to open in 2020. “We have seen that rockets can reach Tel Aviv, so we have to protect our blood supply to work underground,” explained Ido Gutin from MDA’s international relations department. Contractors, Gutin revealed, began work two years ago and spent half a year digging a hole in the ground to build the centre – which will be shielded from chemical warfare and missiles. The six-storey construction project in Ramle outside Tel Aviv received £5 million in funding from British donors and will be able to hold 500,000 blood units to cater to Israel’s growing population over the

If a caller’s needs are less serious, MDA’s coming decades. unique network of “medicycles” are able to The gleaming new centre will be the latest weave in and out of traffic carrying cardio step forward for the MDA, which is already pumps, defibrillators and vital equipment. at the forefront of modern innovation as it A state of the art simulator centre that delivers crucial services throughout Israel. trains drivers and first responders opened Surprisingly, MDA boasts a staggering earlier this year in Jerusalem. average ambulance response time It contains seven rooms, of approximately 10 minutes, each one recreating and anyone dialling 101 a different fictional in Israel can expect to scenario ranging be connected to a from home births medically-trained to terror attacks. dispatcher within Driving simulaa speedy four tors, which come seconds. complete with For callers driving controls, unaware of their multiple screens exact whereaand speakers, allow bouts, the My trainees to mimic MDA app can save Israel’s unique road precious minutes, traffic conditions. allowing users to share Donations to MDA’s first “We are looking their location with 10 breast milk bank to have everyone in our metre accuracy via text or staff go through it,” Gutin WhatsApp. The app, which explained. “We opened this simulacounts hundreds of thousands of tion centre in April and we are looking to users, allows users to fill out their medical have everyone go through it.” or personal information or even register to But MDA’s crown jewel is its first milk bank, donate blood. expected to launch soon, which will allow Dispatchers working from regional call nursing mothers to donate excess milk. Lifecentres are able to pair callers with their saving for premature infants, breast milk is at nearest ambulance or paramedic with present largely available on the black market pinpoint accuracy using GPS tracking.

or through informal sharing, Gutin revealed, but informal sources carry the risk of contamination. While there are an estimated 500 milk banks around the world, this will be Israel’s first such centre, to be largely funded by MDA with help from donors and seed funding from the country’s Health Ministry. Dr Sharron Bransburg Zabary, director of the milk bank, told Jewish News: “Using human milk saves lives. For every £1 spent, human milk banks save £9 on the costs of looking after a premature infant in their first year.” While the project is still in its infancy stage, with between 20 to 50 nursing mothers currently involved in the pilot, MDA estimates it will be able to collect around 300 litres a month. Milk donations will be accepted from locations up and down the country. “I got a call from a mother in the south of Israel in Ashkelon, a 15-minute drive from the Gaza Strip,” revealed Dr Bransburg Zabary. “I drove over there and picked up 20 litres,” she said. “Mothers of premature infants can be in a very strange emotional state and doing something good for others can help them.” That fits nicely with the core ethos of MDA, looking to help Israel’s citizens through technological advances that are made possible by the donations they receive and the work of their volunteers.

Staff at the simulator centre teach drivers and first responders

MDA’s blood services centre in Ramle

An MDA ambulance driver

12 September 2019 Jewish News


for 70 years


Magen David Adom

Ambulance attends 10,000 calls Emergency vehicle was bought by Jewish News readers and shul members in 2010 AN ISRAELI AMBULANCE purchased by Jewish News readers and members of Cockfosters and New Southgate shul has attended more than 10,000 emergency calls over the years, figures show. Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national ambulance, blood services and disaster-relief organisation, revealed the lifesaving intensive care unit has attended some 10,903 calls since it entered service nearly a decade ago. Among them, 7,713 were adults, 753 were car accidents, 643 were children, and 143 were victims of violence. The vehicle and crew have also helped some 106 women to give birth. Retired surgeon Norman Rosenbaum, 84, who received a Humanitarian Of the Year award from MDA this year, led community efforts to raise money for the ambulance in 2010. The octogenarian, who raised money for a dozen such ambulances over the years, was honoured at Jewish News’ Night of Heroes Award last year. Seeing the latest figures, he said: “We are so proud the Cockfosters and North Southgate community and friends have raised funding for


The MDA mobile intensive care unit bought by Jewish News readers

more MDA ambulances pro rata than any other community in the world.” MDA UK chief executive Daniel Burger marked the achievements with a message of gratitude to British Jews. “The Jewish News-sponsored Cockfosters & North Southgate Synagogue











ambulance has been on the road for nearly a decade and is still going strong,” he said. “When you see the figures and appreciate that




this one ambulance has made more than 10,000 calls, it brings home how important the partnership between the UK Jewish community and Magen David Adom is – and how many lives it has saved. “Magen David Adom UK is grateful to Jewish News, the Cockfosters & North Southgate Synagogue community and all those that supported this incredible project in 2010, that is still saving lives today.” Jewish News news editor Justin Cohen said: “It’s incredible to look back and think the money we raised has helped to save thousands of people. We’re so pleased to hear the ambulance has been crucial in doing so. It’s certainly a legacy our readers and the shul can be extremely proud of, as it shows Anglo-Jewry at its best.”



100: POLICE 101: MDA 102: FIRE











Jewish News 12 September 2019

Magen David Adom

for 70 years

MDA is a service for everyone

Magen David Adom UK’s chief executive, Daniel Burger, reveals how British support is crucial


aniel Burger is in a pretty good mood. He’s just heard that two painted medieval panels depicting a Christian saint are to be sold at auction for around £2 million and that his charity is in line for about a third. It’s a remarkable story – one for another time, and one with more questions than answers – but for the head of Magen David Adom UK, the money is certainly very welcome, not least because there is a new national blood centre in Israel to build. The sale of the Old Masters panels (after a German gallery agreed to their restitution) will cap a good fundraising year. Legacies were up, and the level of support from private donors stayed strong. But Burger, who took over from his late, great predecessor Eli Benson at MDA UK in 2011, knows there are clouds on the horizon, and knows that the

pressure is on for the UK to chip in around £8m to build the new bomb- and earthquake-proof £100m underground blood centre due for completion in 2021. “You usually hear if a big legacy is coming your way up to 12 months before, pending asset sales,” he says, pondering a potential funding squeeze. “We’ve raised about £5m for this new blood centre so far, so we’ve got another £3m to go.”

To do that, he needs to access the next generation, but Brexit may spell trouble, he says. “Alongside that, there has been a generational shift. Fewer and fewer people are giving to Israel. They’re asking: ‘why should I support Israel?’ This armchair Zionism by guilt has absolutely died a death here with the younger generation, in part because per capita, Israel is now wealthier than the UK. Their question of ‘why should I pay for Israel’s ambulance service’ is very valid. It’s a tough one.” Israelis are slowly starting to contribute – there is now an Israeli Friends of MDA, raising about £800,000 per

year, he says – but approximately 25 percent of the organisation’s annual operating budget is diaspora income. “This is in part because it’s very difficult to raise money in Israel for an ambulance service that effectively bills you when you call them out and they take you to hospital. We’re lucky in the UK. We forget most countries charge.” MDA UK’s grassroots support is still crucial and countrywide, Burger says, helped by the physical element of the charity. “MDA is a highly tangible, visible organisation. You can see the ambulances, the bikes, and donors buy products. If you’re in Israel, you can go and spend a day on an ambulance shift. It’s humanitarian. It’s for everybody. “That’s a very attractive proposition. But there are a lot more people out there in the community who don’t support us than do, and we need to attract them too.” Burger says there are several ways to connect MDA’s UK supporters to Israel. “First, we approach donors who have homes in Israel and remind them that MDA is a cause any one of us could



12 September 2019 Jewish News


for 70 years Daniel Burger and Magen David Adom staff with a Medicycle celebrating Prince William’s visit to Israel

very easily be a beneficiary of, unlike other Israeli charities. “Second, we take treks out to Israel,

which shows MDA up close and personal. “People travel with an ambulance, they see the real Israel.


Magen David Adom

this is not a Jewish ambulance service, “Third, we give them access the they know it’s for everybody, and they public doesn’t get access to, such as to ministers or Israel Defence Force bases. love that.” It’s a brave and ever-changing new You end up with brand ambassadors.” fundraising world – one Burger and his MDA UK’s chief executive says late predecessor Eli Benson were initially support does not just come from Jews. at odds over. “Eli at first never wanted “The support from our Christian me here, he didn’t think I was the right Friends is superb. person for the job,” says Burger It comes from evangelical churches. with a smile. It was established 13 years “We joked about it ago, and there’s a for years, because core group raising we built £80,000 to a very good rela£100,000 annutionship. He was ally for us. a friend and “Last year, a mentor, but they put two a very different ambulances on character to the road. This me. He was year, they’ve the old guard already bought of fundraisers, for four medicycles, Eli Benson and the ambulance whom Israel could which will be dedidedicated in his honour by MDA UK do no wrong. He’d cated during Succot. think nothing of going doorAmbassador Regev recently to-door making house calls. He built hosted them in their barmitzvah year MDA UK from around £250,000 in 2000 and thanked them for their support.” to £3.5m when I joined in 2011. He was He added: “The interesting thing loved by all. in the context of potentially shrinking “After he passed away, I had to stop Jewish support is that here is a growing myself from calling him on the way to non-Jewish support base. Here are work because it had become such non-Jews loving and supporting a regular thing. “He was a very kind MDA. We’re probably the only Angloperson, very generous, and most of all, Israel cause to engage with Christian he was incredibly passionate.” supporters of Israel properly. They know

Israel360 will take you under the skin of a country that you thought you knew, meeting people you would never get a chance to meet and visiting places you would never normally visit. On foot, through water and even on a Magen David Adom ambulance shift. Israel360 is the ultimate Israel challenge. Sign-up today and leave your comfort zone behind. For more information about Israel360 call Rachel Cohen on 020 8201 5900 or email rachelcohen@mdauk.org Register now at: mdauk.org/israel360

Registered Charity No. 1113409



Jewish News 12 September 2019

for 70 years

Magen David Adom


A new community training scheme, the 7 Minute initiative, aims to give people the tools to help save lives immediately after a mass casualty emergency situation


7 Minute Initiative training session

N THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH of a mass-casualty emergency situation such as a terrorist attack on a place of worship, would you know what to do? In those first few minutes before the paramedics arrive, beyond calling for an ambulance, could you say what was needed, what was important? Few of us would have a clear understanding, yet the first seven minutes – the average paramedic response time in such a scenario – are the most crucial. This is when lives are saved or lost. “Unfortunately, Israel has had a lot of experience with terrorism, and one of the things that we saw is that everyone can save lives,” says Raphael Herbst from MDA’s international department. “Saving time saves lives.” Herbst is spearheading an international roll-out of community training – the 7 Minute initiative – which is designed to inform people what to do during this hectic, chaotic time. He has just returned from Milwaukee, training mixed faith groups. “It was very successful,” says MDA’s Ido Gutin, based in Tel Aviv. “The fact that it included Christians, Jews and Muslims was particularly interesting. It showed how we are all in the same boat.” There have been several deadly attacks against religious communities in the United States in recent years, including the 2012 Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, the 2015 Charleston church shooting and last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The half-day MDA course, which has now been delivered in more than 20 countries, is less about first aid training, says Herbst, and more about learning how best to deal with the situation and prepare for the arrival of the emergency services. “The most critical thing that will influence the outcome is the time it takes for the patient to get to hospital for surgery,” he explains. “The faster they get there, the bigger their chance of surviving. It takes a few minutes for ambulances to arrive. Those first few minutes are the longest – and the most horrific.” It is better to know what to do and never have to do it, than to have to do it and find you don’t know what to do, and Herbst asserts that the onus is on training a community, not individuals. “An individual can get stuck, forget what to do,” he says. “A community is much stronger. By training the community, we take the weight off the individual.” The four-hour sessions, which have been delivered as far away as Uruguay, Kazakhstan and Bulgaria, start with the basics, such as calling for help, triaging patients, stopping the bleed and communicating with emergency services. “We’re not giving them a list,” asserts Herbst. “We’re giving principles. The emphasis is on the what, less on the how. This gives them tools to deal with different situations. After this we do single patient scenarios, then multiple patients, then we do a drill. We do that twice, with lessons learned after the first drill. The learning is incredible.”

While the training is not first aid, participants are told such basics as to stem the flow of blood for penetrating trauma injuries by applying direct pressure. They are also taught how to “prepare the scene” for paramedics by, for instance, grouping injuries. “It creates some order and helps make it easier to decide which patients need to go to hospital first. We also help the community gain a clearer picture of what’s happening on scene. This can be crucial. For example, during the London Bridge attack there were five different locations reported. This is needed in order to send medical teams to the right place.” He states that it is important the community gives the emergency services all the relevant information. “Imagine the attack takes place at the JCC [Jewish community centre],” Herbst says. “Every Jew knows where the JCC is, but the operator doesn’t. We need to give the right address, the right entrance, send someone outside to wait. All this cuts the time to hospital.” Knowing what needs to be done will give a community the best chance of saving lives, he adds, but acknowledges the difficulty of the situation. “They’re emotionally involved, they know each other, their kids play together... The focus is on saving lives.” More than 3,000 people have now had the training, and Herbst says the feedback has been “amazing… we’re always very surprised by how people react to it”. He explains: “We keep it simple – more what, less how. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, people want to help, they ask: what can I do? Well, this is something they can do. They can arrange the training and help prepare their own community. “We don’t make any money from this – we just cover the cost of instruction. Our only profit is in knowing we did something amazing. When you have a rabbi, an imam and a pastor learning together, like we had in Milwaukee, you know it’s worth it.” • MDA is holding a 7 Minute workshop at JW3 on 23 September at 6.30pm. It is free to attend, contact their box office to book.

The four-hour sessions have been delivered in countries including Uruguay and Bulgaria

12 September 2019 Jewish News


for 70 years


Magen David Adom

Past and present IN 1949, after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, and the War of Independence that followed, Israeli legislators set to work building a body of statute. To a large extent, they had a clean slate but, in some areas, there were international conventions granting external agencies operational powers within states, including one of the most famous – the Geneva Conventions. These assigned medical functions to “National Societies or the Red Cross or other volunteer aid societies legally recognised and authorised by their governments”. Israeli legislators wanted their own National Society, to act both as a national blood bank and as an auxiliary of the Israel Defence Force’s medical division in times of war, “and to prepare for this in times of peace”. Thankfully, they already had one: Magen David Adom (MDA). “There was actually a Magen David Adom set up in Switzerland in 1915, in the First World War, to serve Jewish soldiers,” says Uri Shacham, MDA Chief of Staff and director of MDA’s Red Cross Movement Relations and Coordination. “Christian soldiers had the Red Cross and Muslim soldiers had the Red Crescent, so it was decided that Jewish soldiers would have the Red Shield of David, but after the war it

was no longer needed so it disbanded.” Not for long, says Shacham. “The MDA of today was established almost 90 years ago, in June 1930, after the 1929 riots in places such as Jaffa and Hebron. Residents saw they needed to evacuate the wounded fast, so MDA was established as a rapid response organisation. Our first ambulance was stationed in Tel Aviv.” It soon grew – in volunteers, training, and experience. Even Jewish Haganah operatives were trained in MDA techniques. So by 1949, once the War of Independence ended, there was a ready-made “Red Cross for Israel”. Lawmakers were quick to enshrine it, and the Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) Law came into effect in 1950, stating that MDA “and [MDA] only, shall fulfil in Israel the func-

tions of a National Society”. The law protected MDA’s ambulances, mobile blood banks and medical equipment from tax, outlined its by-laws and defined its emblem – a red Shield of David on a white background. Subsequent Regulations outlined in further detail the organisation’s structure, processes and responsibilities. These showed that becoming an MDA member isn’t quite as simple as just taking a first aid course – you also need to provide two “trustworthy” referees, pass a medical, sign up for a minimum two year commitment, pass the six-month probation period and pay your dues, as determined by the executive. They also defined MDA’s legal duties, such as instruction of first aid and pre-hospital emergency medicine, maintaining a volunteers’ infrastructure and training them in first aid, basic and advanced life support, including mobile intensive care units. Furthermore, they confirmed that MDA was responsible for “the transportation of patients, women in labour, evacuation of road accident wounded and killed, and evacuation of deceased persons”, as well

as the transportation of medics. But the original law was the most important bit, says Shacham. “It said the state of Israel has one national emergency or rescue organisation. Other western countries have several, for different regions, but the MDA law means no matter where you live in Israel, no matter how wealthy your local authority, you will get the same standard treatment, the same equipment.” Shacham says being a national organisation matters for resource allocation. “Take the emergency landing we had at Ben-Gurion [Airport] the other week. We were able to send 100 ambulances because we’re a national organisation with ambulances everywhere. “We know what we can spare at any one time. That’s important when you are a country such as Israel, with limited resources.”

YOUR LIFE. SAVING MY LIFE. Every year, legacies to Magen David Adom are directly responsible for saving the lives of thousands of people in Israel. People like Ilan who was hit by a car outside of his school in Kfar Saba. Remembering MDA in your will is a life-saving way to ensure that the values that are important to you are perpetuated long into the future. To find out more about leaving a legacy to Magen David Adom, or to see how you could save lives on our upcoming legacy mission, call Racheli on 020 8201 5900 or email rachelcohen@mdauk.org

Registered Charity No. 1113409


Jewish News 12 September 2019



OUR ONLY PROFIT IS KNOWING WE DID SOMETHING AMAZING Raphael Herbst from MDA’s international department

Profile for Jewish News

MDA 19  

MDA 19