Eli Beer, the founder of the volunteer ambulance service United Hatzalah of Israel, spoke at a reception in Central Phoenix this week. He began by asking the audience a simple question: If someone were choking across the street, would anyone in the room try to save them?

Everyone nodded confidently, and Beer said he expected nothing less. That, he said, is at the core of what United Hatzalah is all about — people being willing to help those in need.

United Hatzalah was formed in 2006 to provide immediate medical service between the onset of an emergency and the arrival of traditional ambulance assistance. The organization is a nonprofit and runs completely on donations and volunteer service.

The reception was a collaborative effort between United Hatzalah, Arizona Israel Technology Alliance and the Jewish Community Relations Council. JCRC board member Adam Goodman hosted the event at his business, Goodman’s Interior Structures. 

“The JCRC creates programs that reach across traditional boundaries to bring people together for the exchange of ideas,” Goodman said. “This event, highlighting an Israeli public safety innovation operated by interfaith first-responders, gave us an opportunity to engage professionals from fire, police, Homeland Security and the sheriff’s office.” 

United Hatzalah started with just two police scanners and $1,000; now, it’s grown into an organization with an operating budget of $20 million and 5,000 volunteers. It treats close to 300,000 people annually. 

Beer displayed one of United Hatzalah’s iconic ambulance motorcycles –— dubbed an “ambucycle” –— and explained how the vehicles help its volunteers achieve a three-minute response time. Because Israeli traffic can be so difficult for larger vehicles, the ambucycles can people faster.

When Beer was 6, he witnessed a bus explosion in Jerusalem and vowed that he would work to save lives. Developing United Hatzalah was his way of keeping his promise to himself. “I didn’t intend for this to grow like it did,” Beer said. “I think it’s the greatest tikkun olam anyone could be a part of.”

President and CEO of Arizona Israel Technology Alliance Leib Bolel sees Beer’s work with United Hatzalah as further evidence that Israel is a world leader in innovation. “Eli has taken technology and revolutionized it to save tens of thousands of lives,” he said. 

Beer hopes other communities will follow in the ambulance service’s footsteps.

“We want the community of Phoenix and Scottsdale to really participate in saving lives both here in their own community and in Israel,” Beer told the Jewish News. He hopes to have a volunteer in every town. 

“We are training more and more volunteers and bringing them into our family,” Beer said. “Once here, they bridge the gaps between the different worlds, rising above politics, above money and above their differences, all in order to rush out and save the lives of total strangers that need help right nearby.” JN

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