Diaspora youths save Israeli lives volunteering for MDA

New “Hachshara” program allows young Diaspora Jews to spend 8 months in Israel rotating between MDA, the IDF and other organizations.

December 14, 2011 07:18
2 minute read.
Ambulances [illustrative]

MDA ambulances waiting at Ben Gurion airport 311. (photo credit: Courtesy MDA)


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When Arthur Bondarev was asked by Bnei Akiva whether he’d rather volunteer with the IDF or Magen David Adom he didn’t hesitate.

“I realized I’d never be a doctor so I thought I’d do the next best thing,” said the 20-year-old German Jew from Düsseldorf on Monday. “Besides, if I were in the army for only two months I wouldn’t really experience what it’s like.”

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Now, as he nears the end of his time with the Israeli emergency service, Bondarev couldn’t be happier with his decision.

During the two-month stretch he has helped elderly citizens, bonded with the MDA staff, which treated him “like family,” and helped save at least on person’s life.

“We were called to a barber shop in Lod where a woman had suddenly had a heart attack,” Bondarev recalled on Monday. “When we showed up the people at the shop had crowded around her and we went to work.”

Initially he was slightly shaken, but Bondarev’s training soon kicked in. For 30 minutes he and his team fought to save the 70- year-old woman’s life until they finally succeeded.

“It was an amazing experience,” he said.


Bondarev is part of a new “Hachshara” program launched by Bnei Akiva, the religious- Zionist youth movement, which allows young Diaspora Jews to spend eight months in Israel rotating between MDA, the IDF and other organizations.

“About 20 people have taken part in the program so far and another 140 are set to participate over the next seven months,” said Danielle Wise, a spokesperson for the youth group. “Our aim is to educate them on Zionism, religion and social awareness.”

Working at a demanding place like MDA has had its highs and lows, Bondarev said. The day after he helped save the Lod woman’s life he faced a similar situation, only this time with a different outcome. His team was first to respond to a 30-year-old man who sustained head wounds from a fall.

“When he showed up he was already hurt and bleeding heavily,” Bondarev said. “We tried to resuscitate him but he was dead.” Bondarev said the experience was hard on him but that he had tried to look on the bright side. “I saved one life but couldn’t save another.”

In between responding to rescue calls and visiting elderly citizens in need of medical attention, Bondarev has gotten to see Israel from a vantage point that otherwise would never have been available to him. He said he hasn’t ruled out making aliya one day but that first he had other things on his mind.

“I want to study financial mathematics and work on Wall Street,” he said, “but I would love to come make aliya one day. I like it here.”

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