What fuels you?

One of the most frequent questions I get is: What fuels United Hatzalah?

United Hatzalah 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
United Hatzalah 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
My life as a leader of United Hatzalah of Israel (the largest non-profit, volunteer-based EMS in Israel) means that half of my time I’m overseas raising money for the organization. I meet generous donors, I speak to many new audiences and I answer questions – hundreds of them – with pleasure, since they are all about my main hobby, my ultimate passion, United Hatzalah and its 2,100 volunteers.
One of the most frequent questions I get is: What fuels United Hatzalah? The questioner usually wants to hear about our finances; do we charge money for our services? (No.) Where does our funding come from?(Generous donors.) Does the state or the municipality support us? (Could be better.) But each and every time I hear the question what comes to my mind is not the money. What comes to my mind is the people.
First of all we have our donors.
Their support not only enables us to purchase defibrillators, medical supplies and ambucycles.
Their support fuels United Hatzalah. People who have decided to part with their hardearned money to invest in something bigger then themselves.
They have given us more than their money; they have given us their trust. They have taken a stand, that saving lives is more important than saving money for luxuries. We take their support and their trust very seriously.
And then there are the volunteers, the amazing men and women who volunteer relentlessly in order to save lives. But what fuels them? I will tell you through my own example.
Last week ago I was standing in line before boarding my plane at JFK, when suddenly the woman standing in front of me – with her five kids – turned, looked straight into my eyes and exclaimed “Mr. Beer, it’s you!" My mind began racing. I did not recognize the lady and was trying to figure out if she was a distant relative, acquaintance or maybe someone from one of our fundraising events. She calmed me down in the next second.
“You don’t know me, but you saved my daughter’s life,” she said. She took the hand of her sweet little daughter and said, “If not for you, Michal would not be alive today.”
She went on telling me the story how two years ago Michal was playing in her grandparent’s garden with her twin sister, next to an almost empty pool, when she fell in. By the time the parents got her out of the water she was limp, unconscious and slowly turning blue. They called for an ambulance and got ready for a excruciating and seemingly endless 10-minute wait.
United Hatzalah volunteers Ephraim Cherrick and Aryeh Jaffe were in the neighborhood when they heard the alert. They got to the house within two minutes, started resuscitation before the ambulance arrived and saved little Michal’s life – gave her back to her family, life and a bright future – without any lasting damage.
I spent the long flight sitting right behind Michal’s seat and could not stop thinking about what would have happened if we hadn’t gotten there in time.
What if there was no Hatzalah? I was unspeakably grateful for my fate, my mission and the volunteers who make it a reality every day. I was unspeakably grateful for the fact that there was a little five year old playing peek-a-boo with her mom in the seat ahead of me.
It also made me understand – again – that moments like this, meeting people who survived because of us, are the ones that put us into motion. This is what fuels my 2,100 fellow volunteers at United Hatzalah. This is what fuels the donors of the organization.
This is what fuels me.
The author is the founder and president of Israel’s largest non-profit, volunteer-based EMS, United Hatzalah. www.israelrescue.org