Saving lives in the Holy Land and across the ocean

United Hatzalah volunteers help others far beyond Israel’s borders.

UNITED HATZALAH volunteer Ariel Forman displays one of the organization’s ambucycles outside its headquarters in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
UNITED HATZALAH volunteer Ariel Forman displays one of the organization’s ambucycles outside its headquarters in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
Ariel Forman was just 12 years old when first responders stormed into his New Jersey home after his father suffered a near deadly reaction to new medication. It took four minutes for the emergency medical technicians to arrive after a terrified Forman and his mother found his father’s unconscious body. It was four minutes that felt like a lifetime.
While his father is alive and healthy today, those were four minutes Forman will never for- get. During that moment, while he stood waiting for help, he knew he never wanted to feel power- less like that again. So at 16, he became an EMT.
Now, three years later, Forman has just com- pleted the National Registry of Emergency Med- ical Technicians (NREMT) course, which is con- sidered the gold standard in emergency response education in the United States.
The purpose of this certification is to “serve as the national EMS certification organization by providing a valid, uniform process to assess the knowledge and skills required for competent practice by EMS professionals throughout their careers and by maintaining a registry of certifi- cation status,” according to NREMT’s website.
Its qualifiers are certified to work in 39 states and Israel.
United Hatzalah has now introduced this course into its already expansive repertoire of options available for those interested in volunteering as an emergency first responder. Once the NREMT-ac- credited course is completed, students must take the NREMT exam, which is not offered by United Hatzalah, in order to obtain certification.
The program is also part of the organization’s overall goal to internationalize its reputation as one of the most innovative and efficient emer- gency response organizations in the world.
“We’re known for the fastest response in the world, but what I want to focus on in the next few years is not only to have a very fast response, but to have the highest level of professionalism in Israel – and that means the highest in the world,” United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer told The Jerusalem Post.
The organization hopes that applying Amer- ican standards to its already existing model will enhance the organization and, ultimately, bene- fit those it helps.
“Israelis sometimes think we know best, but I think we can learn from these guys. [This course] can improve the collective good,” says Hatzalah board member Yaron Carni.
The course, which kicks off this fall, will allow students to train in Israel, but transfer their ex- pertise to the US.
“For many years, every year we have a large amount of interest from visiting students or post-college students who want to give back and get involved in Israel, but there was never a mech- anism to do that,” explains Shai Jaskoll, United Hatzalah’s director of operations.
The NREMT course, which will teach roughly 25 students twice a week for six months, is de- signed to fill this need. This is key for volunteers who are likely to move back to the US in the near future and is especially useful for college and gap year students who want to become a certified EMT, but don’t yet know where they will settle once they’re back stateside.
Once the course is complete, the options for what to do with it are virtually endless. This is be- cause the NREMT course is for those “who want to take a nationally registered program based in Israel that they can use here or use back in North America for either employment or volunteer work or an introduction to health care,” he said.
“Very few [emergency response] programs are as international as we are,” says Jaskoll, who like Forman, became an EMT as a teenager.
Forman, who is studying at a yeshiva here, spends his free time as a United Hatzalah vol- unteer and hopes as an NREMT veteran that stu- dents can learn from his positive experience.
“I’m helping them gather the material; it’s pos- sible I’ll help with instruction,” he said of the English-language classes.
As for his ability to save lives, Forman has no regrets. “I have a lot of friends and people I meet that say ‘I wish I did that in high school.’ This is a good time,” he declares. “If you can make the time, if it’s something you’re interested in, this is a perfect opportunity. You come back with certi- fication and start practicing right away.
“I was always amazed seeing first responders.
It was something I had a lot of respect for. When you would see in shul on a Shabbat morning, people run out [to save lives], it was so beautiful. I said, ‘one day I wanted to be a part of it.’”
This article was written in cooperation with United Hatzalah