Medical emergency in Israel: 101 or 1221?

There has been a longstanding “territorial dispute” between Magen David Adom and United Hazalah.

Magen David Adom ambulances (photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
Magen David Adom ambulances
(photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
If you suddenly feel ill or the person near you collapses, whom do you call?
Many citizens automatically think of calling Magen David Adom at 101 for an ambulance, while others insist that if you want the fastest service, call United Hatzalah at its direct number, 1221.
A few weeks ago, this reporter witnessed the falling in a Jerusalem street opposite the headquarters of the Yad Sarah national volunteer organization of an old man with a cane whose head hit the pavement and blood gushed out. It occurred a 30-second drive from Shaare Zedek Medical Center and its emergency department.
Bystanders moved the man to the sidewalk. While one of them suggested calling 101, the others said they were calling 1221 for “much faster service.” They did, and a United Hatzalah medic on his ambucycle arrived in about two minutes.
As there has been a longstanding “territorial dispute” between the two organizations and the Health Ministry has not managed to settle it, people are confused about what number to call for help.
As a result, United Hatzalah started broadcasting advertisements on the radio in recent weeks to recommend calling 1221, saying that its service is completely free and run by well-trained volunteers and that the UH dispatch also notifies Magen David Adom of all emergency calls that it receives, thus both organizations receive all of the information necessary. MDA, which charges a fee that is paid by one’s health fund, private insurance or the individual itself, however, has claimed it provides better services.