As Israel continues to contend with the coronavirus crisis, the IDF conducted a blood donor drive at a military base in the center of the country, collecting 38 units in one day.
The IDF’s Transportation Center is a key unit in the IDF, providing the military’s bases across the country with ammunition, food, armored vehicles, missiles, weapons, spare parts, fuel and more. On Tuesday, the center provided the country with a much needed commodity, blood.
“In the situation that we are in now, if the IDF doesn’t do it, who will?” Col. Eli Azar, the head of the IDF’s transportation center told The Jerusalem Post. “As long as I can donate and my troops can donate I will do so. It’s one of our missions.”
It was pouring rain when the Post arrived at the base. With regulations imposed by the Health Ministry and IDF allowing no more than 10 people to congregate in a room at the same time, the base resembled a ghost town.
A mobile blood drive unit belonging to the Magen David Rescue services was active in the parking lot. Two soldiers were donating blood and two paramedics were inside the vehicle. Soldiers waiting nearby to donate stood at a distance from one another.
Col. Guy Itzhak, commander of the Southern Knights Battalion from the Technology and Logistics’s branch, said: “It’s not obvious in this situation because a lot of people are concerned and many are staying home,” he said, adding that while soldiers who are at home should not come to base to donate, all who remain on base have been asked to come.
“In these days we understand that there is a lack of donations in MDA and at the same time the demand for blood isn’t going away. It’s only increasing. So we have a mobile blood donation center at Beit Nabala to allow for soldiers to donate to increase the amount of blood for nationwide banks,” he said.
Azar told the Post that 38 soldiers donated blood on Tuesday. He plans two other drives next week at three bases across the country to collect at least 100 donations per day.
“We knew that most people were away from base, but getting 38 donations is very good,” he said. “We did the same in January and we’ve been talking about it since. In January, we did the drive in a large hall and this time we were sent a mobile station because of the coronavirus and we can’t have too many people at one place at one time.”
While another mobile station would remove the pressure on troops, “MDA is also under immense pressure due to the situation so we aren’t sure if we can get two stations or more,” Azar said.
“It’s also part of our culture in the transportation center,” Col. Idan Peri, commander of the Northern Knights Battalion told the Post prior to giving blood. “Every three months, we have a mobile blood donation unit come to the base and all commanders and soldiers give blood, we get to at least 100 donations every time… could be at least 50 liters per event.”
While the coronavirus is not passed through blood, it was decided to do such a drive in all their units because “There’s always a lack of blood in the country and this is a mission which is very meaningful. At the end of the day, the donations are a form of security for all those who need it, and God forbid when soldiers need blood, it’s available,” Peri said.
Col. Idan Yosef, the commander of the Central Knights Battalion, said “All Israelis should give blood, especially in this situation that we are in.”
“I think that especially in this time, we have to thank the medical professionals-both in the army and civilians. And especially now we have to donate blood, and that’s why I asked that we can do everything we can, even though we did a similar drive three months ago, to have a mobile blood unit come to the base,” he said.
With a lack of blood supplies across the country, citizens should give blood all year long and with the continued spread of the coronavirus, there is an opportunity to collect donations from troops who remain on base.
“We have to give blood all year long, there is a lack of blood supplies across the country. And Corona, there is a global pandemic and the State of Israel is dealing with the virus, and it doesn’t matter if blood will stop the virus or not, or if it’s related to the virus or not, but if the Health Ministry is dealing with the virus and MDA wants to take the opportunity to increase the blood supply, then that’s a good reason to do give as much as we can. It’s important.”
According to Yosef, while there are some 300-400 soldiers on base instead of the usual 500, there was a line outside the mobile station with soldiers waiting to give blood. Nevertheless, troops are keeping to the necessary regulations and keeping a distance of at least two meters and each individual who enters the base must answer a questionnaire about their health before being allowed in.
“If everyone listens to the recommendations and will do his part we will be able to overcome the spread of this virus.”
Due to a growing number of citizens in home isolation that are unable to donate blood and in order to prevent a national blood shortage, MDA blood services have conducted multiple special blood drives across the country.
All blood drives, both by the IDF and MDA are being conducted in accordance with ministry of health regulations aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. Additional locations and times of blood drives can be found on the Magen David Adom website.