When Jerusalem born Eli Beer was six years old, he and his brother witnessed a suicide bombing on their way back from school. In the aftermath of the attack, they heard a man yelling for help on the sidewalk but they were so scared they just ran home.
This experience instilled within Eli a drive to save lives, so, ten years later, as a teenager and eager to fulfil this mission, he volunteered at a local ambulance service. “In two years of volunteering, however, I never got to save a single life, as we always arrived too late on the scene,” he noted.
On one occasion, however, his team responded to an emergency call involving a boy choking on a hotdog.
There was terrible traffic that day, Eli recalls, and the ambulance tried desperately to get to the scene as quickly as possible. When they finally arrived, they followed procedure and initiated CPR. After a few moments, a doctor, who lived across the street, came running over to help but told them that it was too late and he declared the boy dead. Eli, heartbroken, realized that the boy died fornothing. “If only the doctor could have been alerted earlier, it would have ended differently.”
This set him off on what he describes as his life’s purpose, to find a better solution.
Beer recalled how, as teenagers following the initial bombing incident, he and a group of 15 friends had purchased police transmitters that enabled them to tap into the frequencies of the local ambulance service, so that if anything happened close to their neighborhood, they would be first on the scene. Using this idea as a basis for his new life-saving initiative and following on the success of Hatzolah in New York, in 1996, Beer founded Hatzalah in Jerusalem.
The organization has grown considerably over the years and now as United Hatzalah, the volunteersarrive at the scene of an emergency on motorcycle ambulances equipped with an advanced GPS technological application, LifeCompass, which uses crowd-sourcing technology to rally first responders quickly, any time of day or night, across the country. After an emergency call, the organization’s GPS application dispatches the call to the closest five medics in the area and they drop whatever they are doing and advance towards the scene using the fully-equipped “Ambucycles,” supplied by the organization. [LifeCompass was also used by Israeli aid teams in Nepal to map their activities, on the ground and save more lives.]
In 2016 alone, the United Hatzalah network of over 3,200 dedicated volunteer medics, provided
emergency medical treatment to over 265,000 people, of which 47,000 were life-critical situations and with an average response-time of less than three minutes.
In 2007, Eli got a call from 2 Muslim Arabs living in East Jerusalem, Muhammed Asli and Murad Alyan. Muhammed told him that his 77-year-old father had suffered a heart attack and died in front of his eyes after the ambulance arrived an hour after the distress call. Searching for answers he contacted long-time EMT Murad Alyan. Murad, who knew Eli from their days as ambulance medics, figured that Eli would be the person who could make a difference. They told him that they wanted him to start Hatzalah in their neighborhood. Beer agreed wholeheartedly and with the help of other local volunteers, they started United Hatzalah, East Jerusalem Division. “Hand in hand, Jews and Muslims are working together to save lives. It’s not about Jews saving Muslims or Muslims saving Jews, it’s just about saving lives,” he says.
When Eli’s father collapsed from a heart-attack a few years later, the first medic to arrive on the scene and save his father’s life was a Muslim Arab from East Jerusalem. “You can imagine how I felt,” says Eli.
In 2010, Beer received the Social Entrepreneur Award from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in cooperation with the World Economic Forum of Davos. The award is given
to those driving social innovation and transformation in various fields including education, health, environment and enterprise development. In 2013, Beer and the organization won the IIE Victor J. Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East and the Jerusalem Prize in 2017.
United Hatzalah is also training volunteers in several countries, including the United States, Panama, Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania and India on how to implement its community-based model and technological platform for reaching people in medical distress quickly.
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