Cupid's arrow strikes United Hatzalah volunteers

In honor of Tu B'av, the Jewish day of love, here's a look at some volunteers whose relationships blossomed while working for the life-saving organization.

Miri Shvimmer and Lior Ashkenazi  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Miri Shvimmer and Lior Ashkenazi
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In romantic comedies, they call it “meeting cute:” Two characters bump into each other in the most unlikely of circumstances and, eventually, fall in love.
For Bilha and Miki Fischler, their meet cute occurred while enrolled in an ambulance course.
“It was a pretty heterogenous crowd,” Bilha recalls, of the group of students. During class, the two would often spend time together during the many coffee breaks during the course.
“We love this idea of saving lives,” Bilha says, explaining the common bond the two share. “We’re willing to invest time when needed.”
And invest they do. On vacations and even during Shabbat, they make themselves available for emergencies.
“Usually Miki goes. If it’s very serious, I go too. Miki’s phone is always on,” she says.
For the couple that is always on call, there is never a dull moment.
Just two weeks ago, they were called to the side of a busy road to help a woman giving birth.
“We got to the side of the road, a very pastoral road and the father yelled, ‘The head is coming,’” Bilha remembers.
Without hesitation, she helped the mother deliver what was a healthy baby.
“It was very emotional and the adrenaline rush was real,” she says.
The two work so well in tandem because they complement each other, Bilha explains. As a science teacher, Bilha has the academic know-how and Miki, who is a nurse and paramedic, has a plethora of hands-on experience.
Together, they are a force to be reckoned with.
MIRI SHVIMMER and Lior Ashkenazi’s “meet cute,” though, is a bit more convoluted. It took several encounters (including a Midburn festival and a road trip in Africa) until the two realized they were meant to be.
Miri was on her way to a United Hatzalah interview in their Ramat Gan office. As a nurse and paramedic, she didn’t have a lot of time on her hands. “I was really in a rush,” she remembers.
One of the other people being interviewed was her future significant other, Lior. “I thought he was a really nice guy, but didn’t think more than that,” she says with a laugh.
Eventually, the two met again at a party and when Lior announced his plans to travel to Africa, Miri, who didn’t want to travel alone, asked if she could join him for some parts of his travels.
“During this period, I got to know him and how amazing he is. He really cares about everybody and wants to do good,” she says of Lior who is a medic and osteopath. The feeling was mutual.
“One of the things I was looking for was someone who is passionate and understands the importance of saving lives and public health,” Lior says. “I couldn’t be with someone who doesn’t get this or someone who won’t accept it.
“She’s not only passionate about it, this is her work. She’s a paramedic and a nurse, it’s part of her life. Finding her is like finding rare gold,” he added.
As for their United Hatzalah work, the two see no reason to stop. “Working with Hatzalah for us is part of our daily life. I think it will continue to be in the future. We’re totally into it,” Lior says.
ELIANA AND Avner Ben David, too, found their way into each other’s hearts through their United Hatzalah work.
A chance encounter via an EMT Whatsapp group led to their eventual first date. “We talked a lot about some medical details and different cases that we had both seen, which then lead us to a private conversation. A week or so later we spoke on the phone, which eventually led to a date,” Eliana says.
Like the Fishlers, Eliana and Avner eventually began taking on most calls as a couple. “While we were dating, we kept receiving calls and we answered them together, as we were often together. I had to keep reminding him that these calls were not considered dates,” Eliana joked.
But no romantic comedy would be complete without a creative, show-stopper of a proposal.
Enlisting the help of his brother (who is also an EMT), the two orchestrated an emergency call from the dispatch center in the middle of a secluded park. When Eliana arrived at the scene, expecting to find agony and bloodshed, she instead saw Avner perched on one knee, candles lit around him, a bottle of wine and, of course, a ring.
Today, after three years of marriage, the couple has a two-year-old son.
While matchmaking is not the goal of United Hatzalah, the organization enables its married volunteers to incorporate their lifesaving work in their day-to-day life and make all of its volunteers feel like part of a family.
“United Hatzalah is like family. They very much care for the volunteers and their staff. Volunteering can be a thankless job and inconvenient, they make it pleasant,” Bilhah says.
This article was published in cooperation with United Hatzalah.