(photo credit: (Yossef Avi Yair Engel/Beit Hanassi))
He who saves a single life is as one who saved the whole world, Jewish tradition
In fact, Drs. Moshe and Rotem Lapidot from Haifa’s Rambam
Medical Center saved not one life but two in November 2009, when they responded
instinctively to an emergency situation.
The couple was visiting friends
at Moshav Meishar near Gedera and were about to get into their car to go home
when they smelled smoke.
Turning around, they saw a house on fire. A
woman named Shiri was hanging out of a second-story window screaming for help.
Her twoyear- old daughter Michal had been trapped in a bedroom at the back of
the house and the mother couldn’t get to her.
The Lapidots ran toward the
house. Moshe Lapidot, who had been in a paratrooper commando unit, found a
ladder leaning against a tree, climbed it and rescued the frantic
Lapidot then rushed into the burning building, but because he
didn’t know the layout and the smoke was heavy, he couldn’t find the right
He rushed out, got instructions from Shiri and went back inside to
She was barely breathing. He immediately administered
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, then carried her outside to his wife, Rotem. She
treated Shiri and Michal until the paramedics came.
On Monday evening,
the Lapidots were the recipients of the President’s Award for exemplary
volunteerism, having risked their lives to save Michal and Shiri. Both were on
hand for the presentation ceremony at Beit Hanassi.
Peres bent down to lift the girl, now aged three.
Back in November,
Michal was attached to a respirator for the better part of a week before she was
able to breathe independently.
She is now fully recovered.
said that it was an extremely emotional moment. A doctor can heal, he said, but
only a true hero can perform so noble and courageous an act as risking his own
life to save that of another.
Awards were also given to Mansour Abu Taha
for bridgebuilding between the Beduin community in the southern Negev and
government offices; B’Terem, an organization that promotes child safety, lobbies
for child safety legislation and introduces safety programs throughout Israel;
Yedidya Vardi, who together with his wife, Drora, encouraged an interest in
science on the part of students at the Haviv High School in Rishon Lezion and
established a Science and Technology Center and museum in memory of their
20-year-old son Ron, a former pupil at the school, who fell in battle in Lebanon
when fighting with the Givati Brigade; Etgarim, an organization that through
sports and nature hikes enables the physically challenged to reach a potential
they never knew they had; Maslan, a rape crisis center in the southern Negev
that offers around the clock support to victims of all kinds of violence and
sexual abuse; Moshe Czeszla, a 91-year-old Polish-born Holocaust survivor, who
devotes his life to helping the housebound elderly in Ashdod; the Association
for the Protection of Privacy, which works primarily to ensure the rights of
lesbian, homosexual, transgender and bisexual people and their integration into
mainstream society; Elad Seker, who heads an Arava-based search and rescue
operation of 80 volunteers who have saved the lives of many people; Pa’amonim,
an organization that enables poor families to exit the cycle of poverty by
teaching them how to manage their finances; Shulamit and Yaacov Hasida, a haredi
couple from Jerusalem who took young women from dysfunctional families into
their home and treated them as if they were their own children over a period of
more than 30 years; Sheli Kapusta, a successful fashion stylist and buyer who
needed a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with leukemia, and later
learned that those people who cannot be treated this way for any number of
reasons still have hope by way of umbilical cord blood, and therefore
established an umbilical cord blood bank; and Aharei, an organization that works
with youngsters from geographic and socially peripheral communities to infuse
them with a sense of patriotism and volunteerism.
Peres said that in his
frequent wanderings around the country, he sometimes felt like Columbus, because
he was always discovering something new in the way of human
People never refused when a volunteer was needed, he
He expressed regret that the media does not give more publicity to
individual volunteers who give so much and do so much for other individuals and
for the state.
“Without volunteers, Israel would never have been
established,” he said, “and without volunteers Israel cannot
Yoram Sagi-Zach, the chairman of the National Council for
Volunteering, said volunteerism is the bridge between many different sectors of
society, and creates harmony and mutual respect where they otherwise might not
“We have to decide whether we want to build walls or bridges,” he
“Whoever volunteers becomes a partner in the effort to fix the