Report from the Gaza border: The volunteer who rescued me

With 8,500 activists spread around the country, Yedidim volunteers have rescued over 450 children locked in cars in 2018 and one Jerusalem Post reporter

A female volunteer from Yedidim helps reset a car in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Aviv (photo credit: YEDIDIM ISRAEL)
A female volunteer from Yedidim helps reset a car in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Aviv
(photo credit: YEDIDIM ISRAEL)
It happens to everyone, locking your keys in the car. On May 14, it happened to me while I was covering violent riots along the Gaza border with Israel.
I was stuck in a field with no cell phone reception as incendiary kites flew overhead and set nearby fields on fire as they landed. Grabbing a ride out of the area with a fellow journalist who had come to cover the Great March of Return, I was finally able to reach my insurance agency, which said they could not help me.
Sitting in a gas station near the southern community of Kfar Aza, the possibility of breaking my window with a rock crossed my mind.
It was obvious I was in a panic, asking anyone at the gas station for help.
One man approached and volunteered to help. He had all the necessary tools in the trunk of his car and would be able to open my door, he said.
Several moments later we were heading back to the burning fields outside Nahal Oz and shortly after he opened my car door, without causing any damage at all.
And at no cost.
He was part of Yedidim, a group of 8,500 volunteers around the country who are only a phone call away and are ready to help in any sort of nonlife threatening emergency.
Founded by Meir Winer during the Second Intifada in order to help people whose cars got stuck in the West Bank, Yedidim is now run by Israel Almasi of Bnei Brak.
Almasi told The Jerusalem Post that he first heard of the organization six years ago after his car got stuck at 5 a.m.
“It could happen to anyone,” he said, explaining that he took out jumper cables and attached one side to his car and waited “for an hour and a half in the rain for another car to come.
It made me realize that a situation like this could not happen again. I had everything but was just missing the connection with people to help me.”
Following that incident, Almasi opened a WhatsApp group he called “cables,” and started adding people to the group so others who got stuck could reach someone for help.
He was then told of Yedidim and approached Winer, who told Almasi he could take charge of the group.
Six years later, there are some 8,500 volunteers around the country who in 2017 rescued 697 children from locked cars.
This year, Yedidim has already saved some 450 children as well as dogs and cats left in cars by their owners.
“To give aid within minutes is so easy and it comes from a want to just do good and give to others. Saving a life is paramount.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog or cat or a child,” Almasi told the Post.
While some 40% of the organization’s volunteers are religious, there is no discrimination and everyone who wants to help is welcome to join, women and men alike.
“It’s a wonderful connection between the communities in the organization, they would never meet in other circumstance,” Almasi said.
Some 6,500 people joined the organization in the last year alone, an incredible amount that Almasi credits to word of mouth as well as social media sites like Facebook.
“We have gotten between 15 and 30 new volunteers every day,” he said. “Over the last year I’ve changed the organization into a more tech-friendly one,” he explained, adding that in the next month or two, the group will launch a new application.
Almasi also told the Post that over the past six months 25 students from Petah Tikva have volunteered with the organization as part of their school’s community service program.
“Hopefully, the pilot program will expand across the country,” he said.
Like the man who helped me out at no cost, Almasi stressed that for him, as for all the volunteers, there is no need for payment.
“I don’t need to get paid. My goals are that all the volunteers will have equipment and save lives and to grow the organization.”