potato farmer naaman king.
(photo credit: MDA)
After one of the family farms fell victim to eminent domain in January 2006, Naaman King made a pledge.
"You don't haggle with G-d, but I promised if anything good ever happens, I'd do something for Israel," King recalls. Then lo and behold, King came home to a letter saying the government was willing to hold negotiations over the property.
"The next letter I opened was from Magen David Adom," King said. "My wife looked at me and said, 'Well, you know what you promised.' So the next week I went to New York to check out the organization, and then I bought an ambulance."
It was as simple as that, explained Sharon Schmidt, the Greater Philadelphia Area director of American Friends of Magen David Adom.
"We were not only surprised and delighted by the enormity of Naaman King's generosity, but elated to learn of his love for our beloved Israel."
"Mr. King is delightful to work with," she continued. "He's completely humble and a true gentlemanâ€¦ At the ambulance dedication, which was a Mennonite covered-dish dinner attended by over 100 people from his Pennsylvania community, I thanked Mr. King for his generosity. His response was, 'Don't thank me, it was all G-d's doing.'"
Before King knew it, he and his family were flying to Israel in November 2006 to greet an ambulance with his name on it.
"I couldn't believe that I did it. I was impressed to see that I could help someone else. It gave me a good feeling," King said. "In our part of the world, we aren't living in fear all the time. We have problems too, but I was really glad to be able to help someone else."
King's family was equally excited when they saw the ambulance for the first time in Israel, King recalled.
"They were all happy about it. It says on the door, 'Donated by Naaman King and Family.'" Three years later the ambulance and King's connection to Israel remain as strong as ever.
King and his grandson traveled the country this past week, from Sderot to Kibbutz Lavi and Kibbutz Deganya in the North.
What King has most enjoyed during this visit, he said, is catching up with his friends.
"This is my 10th time in Israel. My wife and I used to conduct tours over here," King explains. "We've seen all the holy sites, but I wanted a closer relationship with the Israelis, and that is exactly what I got with the ambulance and meeting people like Jonathan Feldstein."
Feldstein, the Israeli representative of American Friends of Magen David Adom, says that King's donation has impacted countless Israelis.
"As I was explaining to people we met with, he's a Christian potato farmer who wanted to do something good for Israel. A lot of Israelis were really astonished and genuinely inspired by his love of Israel," Feldstein explained.
King has met many new friends on this trip, from farmers like himself at kibbutzim, to children squealing with delight after receiving Hanukka gifts King brought from the US.
Before King flies back to the US on Sunday, his grandson, an EMT in the US, will be working on their "baby," MDA ambulance #42 in Jerusalem.
"I'm glad the ambulance is in operation," King says. "It's important to save lives, and that's exactly what it does."