The forum for a better world
World leaders pleasantly surprised to discover Jewish and Arab volunteers work together.
ELI BEER, director and founder of United Hatzalah Photo: MELANIE LIDMAN
Many people think the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos,
Switzerland, is like the United Nations, where politicians and other decision
makers gather to speak. Not many know that the WEF, launched as a nonprofit
organization in 1971 by Klaus and Hilde Schwab, is something completely
different: a place where people come to listen.
This year was my second
time in Davos. Last year I was a newcomer, surprised by the amazing atmosphere,
the number of different talented, successful and, even more importantly,
interested and involved men and women who are truly there contribute to the
communities of the world: to (please, forgive me for the cliche) make a
Among the 2,500 people gathered at Davos every year are
successful businesspeople and politicians. But about 10 percent of the
participants are not invited because of their fortune or financial success. They
are the scientists, the social entrepreneurs and the aptly named Young Global
Leaders – among them, me. While I feel a bit uncomfortable with the title, it is
truly a unique opportunity for people like me – who want to promote a cause, who
want to gather advice and get people interested in their project.
case, that’s the emergency first-response organization that I started, United
Among hundreds of shorter and longer meetings, I had the chance
to talk to Bill Gates. It was such an honor to see him getting interested in the
idea of a community-based firstresponse organization. He understood the
importance of it and the opportunities lying with it: a lifesaving model that
does not need significant equipment, that is scalable and implementable anywhere
on the world. He was happy to hear that we are not planning to keep the model to
ourselves but are ready and willing to share it with whoever is
And many were. I met with people from Lithuania, Brazil,
India and China, who understood how a Hatzalah-like emergency first-response
team could benefit their communities.
How people can help their own
neighbors with the help of United Hatzalah’s unique GPS system and, of course, a
I met with several leaders from the Middle East – Saudi
Arabia, Qatar and Lebanon – who were pleasantly surprised when I told them how
our Jewish and Arab volunteers work together for the greater purpose: to save
lives. Many said I taught them something about Israel they didn’t know
The culmination of the forum for me was the Friday dinner, with
kosher food and more than 240 participants, where the head of JPMorgan Chase,
Jacob Frenkel, said the kiddush and Stuart Eizenstat gave the dvar Torah. At the
table sat President Shimon Peres, who is about to turn 90 but is younger in
spirit than all of us. I felt truly privileged to be there, to greet Shabbat in
such outstanding company.
We talked about the issues we face; about the
problems we need to solve; about how what makes us unique does not have to be
what keeps us apart. The underlying human goals and needs can bring us
I would like to thank again Mr. and Mrs. Schwab, the
outstanding couple who made all this possible – who, in a way, are responsible
for all the good that comes about at these occasions.
As for me, the
search for the next Nobel Peace Prize winner should stop right now. We have the
Eli Beer is founder and president of United Hatzalah.