Veteran Jerusalemites recall the capital’s Magen David Adom station from the
1970s as a fortress-like concrete building – a dreary place with small windows
and too little space. The narrow panes had been installed purposely to prevent
harm from Jordanian snipers in the valley across from the Romema
Constructed in 1963 with funds from MDA’s South African
Friends, the building was suitable for pre-1967 Jerusalem, but inadequate after
the city flourished and grew.
Last week, the capital was presented with a
gift by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – a magnificent, NIS 30 million,
renovated and expanded regional facility suited for decades to come to the needs
of the 13 percent of the population in the Jerusalem region. Bloomberg was the
lead donor, joined by contributors through American Friends of Magen David Adom
(AFMDA) and other groups from Europe and elsewhere.
Aside from the
aesthetics of the edifice and the much larger space, the most tangible change is
the huge glass component that makes the station airy and open.
William H. Bloomberg MDA Jerusalem Station was named to memorialize the
billionaire mayor’s father, who died in 1963 – the same year the original
station was opened. His energetic mother Charlotte, who died in June at the age
of 102, had been due to attend the opening of the new station.
come to Jerusalem for the cornerstone-laying ceremony in February 2007, along
with her son Michael and daughter Marjorie Tiven. Both of her grown children
attended the opening ceremony.
“I believe my father is looking down and
has a big smile on his face,” said the three-term mayor, who had previously
dedicated a unit at Hadassah University Medical Center in her honor.
family was attracted to Magen David Adom because of its spirit of volunteerism
and its unwavering commitment to treat all people equally regardless of race or
religion,” he said. “Today is a great day. I have always thought that Israel is
one of the great friends that America has, and we are thrilled to be a part of
this and will never forget everything that Israel does every day for the
In addition to the Bloomberg family, attending the ceremony in
huge tents outside the station were the chief rabbis, Interior Minister Eli
Yishai, MDA director-general Eli Bin, Kadima MK and Knesset health lobby
chairman Rachel Adatto and dozens of foreign donors who were in for the
International Magen David Adom Conference.
It took four-and-a-half years
from cornerstone-laying to dedication because of lawsuits, red tape and other
MDA Jerusalem’s 150 paid staffers and 1,500 volunteers serve
the city and its surroundings, saving lives around the clock, seven days a week,
365 days a year. More than 1.2 million people live in the region covered by the
new facility, which has become the largest in the country.
In addition to
residents, the number of people in the city swells from the daily influx of
government and other employees, foreign and local tourists, and
NOT ONLY has the new station been renovated and expanded, but
modern engineering standards have been applied to protect it from the threats of
an earthquake and both conventional and non-conventional war. The new David Mark
Berger Chapter Blood Donation Center, with its plush reclining chairs, makes
giving blood in Jerusalem a pleasant experience, sure to boost the number of
The fleet of bloodmobiles that operates from the station will
now be able to do so easily and efficiently, loading and unloading supplies
directly into a state-of-the-art blood bank, without the need to carry them up
and down stairs.
Instead of the station’s five dozen ambulances, mobile
intensive care units and bloodmobiles vying for parking spaces on the street or
in a small lot behind the building, there is now separate, covered parking for
ambulances in the three-tiered parking deck.
First-aid and other training
will be provided in the building’s Nathan and Jacqueline Goldman Palm Beach
Friends MDA Pre-Hospital Training Center, which features new, modern facilities
and infrastructure. A new visitors’ center will attract people from around the
country and abroad as a permanent interactive exhibit about the MDA’s history
and its current activities. The Morris and Nancy Offit Conference Center will
allow for formal programs and educational films. An observation deck on the roof
provides a breathtaking view of the hills and valley at the entrance to
Rapidly finding people in distress in a city with buildings
lacking street numbers, and roads without street signs, has always been
The installation of a state-of-the- art Jerusalem Dispatch
Center, which will be the most modern in the country, should make this task much
easier for ambulance drivers.
The Moto-bridge communications system
enables staffers to receive emergency calls and alerts online from every type of
Pedestrian walkways, access roads and separate
parking levels for private automobiles and MDA emergency service vehicles
significantly improve the organization’s ability to get its ambulances on the
road to answer urgent calls. A whole floor of the original building has been
renovated to provide comfortable staff rooms, lounges and offices; the
rebuilding and refurbishment makes the facilities from 1963 virtually
The paid staffers who will use them include 66
paramedics, 57 emergency medical technicians and ambulance drivers, 13 dispatch
center operators, four emergency doctors, four EMS trainers and six management
The volunteers include 1,200 adults and 350
Last year, MDA Jerusalem personnel gave medical help to over
53,000 people, rushed almost 4,100 women in labor to the hospital (or performed
emergency deliveries in ambulances or at home), came to help victims of almost
9,000 road accidents and provided medical backup at 1,148 public events. A total
of nearly 76,000 operation runs make the MDA Jerusalem Region the busiest in the
Although sculptures and other art are not necessary for advanced
first aid and blood collection, the William H. Bloomberg MDA Jerusalem Station
is punctuated by commissioned original works from leading international artists
that will make visiting it an aesthetic experience.
The most visible is
called Waiting Room, by Franz West, which has been installed in the plaza behind
the station. Perched high above the valley, the curved blue and green forms and
seating areas surrounding the sculpture are likely to become a city landmark. In
addition, 10 images from photographs taken by Frederic Brenner of families who
made aliya, collectively titled Exile at Home, grace the walls of the station,
while another photographic collection called Way to Beyond, taken by Naomi
Leshem, relates to healing and hope.