Peres honors volunteer ‘without whom Israel couldn't exist'

Couple saved woman from burning house.

Peres 311 (photo credit: (Yossef Avi Yair Engel/Beit Hanassi))
Peres 311
(photo credit: (Yossef Avi Yair Engel/Beit Hanassi))
He who saves a single life is as one who saved the whole world, Jewish tradition teaches.
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 mother.
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 room.
He rushed out, got instructions from Shiri and went back inside to find Michal.
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.
President Shimon 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.
Peres 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 resources.
People never refused when a volunteer was needed, he said.
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 exist.”
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 exist.
“We have to decide whether we want to build walls or bridges,” he said.
“Whoever volunteers becomes a partner in the effort to fix the world.”