Observant MDA personnel to answer Shabbat calls by clenching their teeth

Observant MDA staff advised to answer Shabbat calls by clenching teeth.

cell phones 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cell phones 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Magen David Adom staffers and volunteers who are religiously observant have been advised to use their teeth to respond to emergency calls using their new Mirs communications devices on Shabbat and festivals. The cell phones will be placed in a special holder that keeps the folded devices open at all times, with a thin metallic arm sticking out that they can pull with their teeth to communicate with MDA stations. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Halperin, head of Jerusalem's Scientific and Technological Institute for Halacha, such a mechanism for using the phone to save lives on holy days is permissible according to Jewish law. MDA recently began replacing their old beepers with Mirs cell phones using a global positioning satellite (GPS) system so staffers and volunteers can find locations more quickly. Those who are closest to the person who needs help will automatically be informed. While most MDA personnel were happy with the improved technology, the haredim among them were leery of it because use of a GPS-equipped cell phone could, they argued, result in the desecration of Shabbat and holidays. Some asked to continue to use the old beepers, whose messages could be viewed without manipulating the devices. Halperin's permission to use the Mirs phone with the metallic arm on holy days calmed the MDA personnel, and they agreed to use them by clenching their teeth. MDA director-general Eli Bin said the Mirs phones can "significantly cut the amount of time it takes for ambulance teams to arrive and save lives. "MDA, as one of the most advanced lifesaving organizations in the world, is committed to using the technology, while ensuring that it doesn't upset the lifestyles and customs of its [staffers and] volunteers," he said.