The MDA ambulances that helped establish the Medical Corps, the Haganah fighters who volunteered in MDA, the medics who dealt with the chemical threat from Iraq and other fascinating secrets that reveal how much Magen David Adom influenced the strength and resilience of the country, from its inception until today. A special feature article.
Magen David Adom is the common thread in the country's founding moments and was even responsible for some of its greatest moments. The organization, which will celebrate 93 years this June, was at the heart of the struggle for the establishment of the state and has been part of its challenges and successes ever since. Here are moments worth knowing about:
Immediately after the end of World War II and as soon as the extent of the disaster became clear, MDA sent medical equipment, food and clothing to the survivors of the Holocaust, and its volunteers went on expeditions to Europe with the aim of bringing back survivors to Israel.
MDA volunteers helped hundreds of illegal immigrant refugees (ma'apilim) enter Israel under the noses of the British, risking their lives. The volunteers hid in trenches along Israel's coast, watching for refugees and helping them slip in. When the refugees finally set foot on Israeli soil, the volunteers provided them with medical aid for injuries and illnesses that they picked up during their journey.
Many of the Haganah, Lehi, Etzel and Palmach volunteers were actually MDA volunteers. Moreover, the organization trained the fighters in first aid so that they could provide life-saving medical assistance to those wounded in the struggle for the establishment of the state.
Magen David Adom helped establish the Medical Corps by donating to the IDF 50 ambulances, which were the first in the military system. The ambulances, which originally came to MDA via a donation from a supporters' association in the US, created a cycle of giving that enabled the establishment of the military and civilian corps.
In the first Gulf War, Israel faced the threat of chemical missiles. At MDA, they said "at your service" and went into the field to save lives, realizing the magnitude of the task. Many of them left families behind who did not know if they would get to see their loved ones return from the shift alive.
The stories about the courage of MDA employees and volunteers in the first and second intifadas, in wars and military operations, in national disasters and also as representatives of the state in humanitarian missions overseas, are too numerous to mention, and the legacy of saving lives and helping others is also reflected in the current challenges that Israel faces, including the coronavirus, missiles from the north and south, terrorist attacks and more.
Successes that build a strong nation
Command and control system - the nerve center of Israel: The fact that the organization's teams have been the first to deal with complex attack scenes over several decades of unceasing terrorism brought the organization to excellence not only in the field but also behind the scenes, in the nerve center of emergency medicine.
The MDA operational center is the most advanced center in the world in the ability to analyze the situation in the field in real time, obtain a situational picture of the incident at record speed, immediately launch response units alongside ambulances and intensive care vehicles, the ability to launch MDA helicopters as well as being integrated into and cooperating with the IDF, the Israel Police, Fire and Rescue Service, local authorities, the airport and more.
Thanks to the advanced system developed by MDA, which recently incorporated the use of artificial intelligence, the paramedics and medics at the center are able to manage complex scenes, and sometimes a few at the same time, all the while keeping up with their routine of treating patients involved in car accidents, heart attacks, strokes, births and more.
The call center's ability to switch from routine operations to emergency operations within seconds and its ability to manage the most critical events in Israel with skill and professionalism is what brought the entire world's interest in its organizational inspection and control system, and many countries are seeking to buy the system and its capabilities and integrate them into international emergency medical systems. Recently, MDA's emergency call system was implemented in a Fire and Rescue center in Israel.
The most protected blood bank in the world: There are not many countries in the world that face a consistent missile threat like the State of Israel, and Magen David Adom, which supplies 100% of the blood units to hospitals in Israel and the IDF, is aware of its cardinal role in preserving the national blood reserve, and therefore MDA built a blood bank that is protected from conventional and unconventional missiles, which allows normal operations to continue even during missile salvos, during an earthquake and during other disasters that may occur.
The blood bank, located in Ramle, includes three underground floors containing a special vault that allows the national blood reserve to be preserved in case of a mega-disaster, and to supply blood to the wounded and sick in the country for many days continuously and without restriction. This tremendous advantage alone should provide peace of mind to every citizen in the country, and it is part of Israel's national resilience. The national milk bank and the cord blood bank also operate in this building.
An array of on-call workers that deploys automatically: The most important thing during an emergency is time. It cannot be stopped, but it can certainly be fought, and MDA is doing everything possible to shorten response times on the way to the injured and wounded. Because of this, MDA was the first in Israel to establish an array of immediate response units, which are actually elite units in the air, at sea and on land, which are launched to emergency incidents through a special application, automatically, according to their proximity to the scene and their type of training.
For example, the motorcycle unit teams are deployed and arrive within a few minutes, at the same time so are the ambulances and intensive care vehicles, as well as on-call workers who are able to arrive in their own vehicles or in ambulances that are on standby. In a complex event, the MDA has the ability to launch its helicopters stationed in the north and south of the country, and ensure the patient reaches a designated hospital within a few minutes.
MDA has lifeboats that can go from one end of the beach to the other to treat the wounded, and evacuate them safely and with maximum comfort and while maintaining a sequence of treatments, to the ambulance waiting on the beach.
In the successive attacks in the Old City of Jerusalem, it was only MDA's special ATVs that were able to move between the alleyways and reach the wounded quickly. These and many other good solutions were born at MDA out of the need to beat the race against the clock, and reach patients quickly while carrying vital and life-saving medical equipment. MDA's cooperation with 20 other rescue organizations in Israel helps a lot in saving lives.
Some 30,000 volunteers work at MDA, most of them are also part of on-call immediate response units who are ready to leave their jobs and families and run to the scene in order to save lives. It is the combination of sectors and religions, ages and backgrounds that creates the special human capital that leads the way in saving lives - and in creating a strong society and community.
Magen David Adom is the only emergency medical organization in the world that employs teenagers in ambulances. MDA has 14,000 volunteers aged 15-18 who receive medical training and save lives in ambulances and intensive care vehicles. MDA is proud of the quality youth, thanks to whom many lives have been saved throughout 93 years of activity. These youth later fill the ranks of medical students in universities and hospitals.
The National Defibrillator Project: Another ground-breaking project MDA has taken charge of, in cooperation with the National Lottery, brings victories in the fight against deaths from cardiac arrest, which is done with the support of the MDA Friends Association in Israel and other associations in the world, and it is possible to place thousands of smart defibrillator stations outside schools, synagogues, lottery stands, shopping centers, malls, cafes, gyms and more.
The stations contain a defibrillator, are monitored and opened remotely by MDA's 101 call center, and enable the administration of an electric shock in the first seconds of the incident. A brief skim through the news will be enough to be impressed by the many success stories and the thousands of families who received their loved ones back to understand that MDA is marching us towards a better future that promises to change the sad statistics of deaths from cardiac arrest.
MDA trains all paramedics in Israel and the IDF. The organization certifies about 300 paramedics per year and significantly strengthens the national medical system. Moreover, MDA operates a training system that 300,000 trainees go through each year, receiving important life-saving tools.
Victory in the face of the coronavirus pandemic: With the outbreak of the virus, which challenged the entire world, MDA was the only organization that gave the State of Israel and the various institutions the ability to respond quickly in monitoring and treating patients in the country. In addition, the organization was the first in the world to vaccinate against the virus and operate huge complexes for testing and treating patients. The state comptroller and senior government officials praised the organization for meeting the many challenges and contributing to eradicating the pandemic in Israel.
The list of successes is long and extensive and it is appropriate that everyone will be revealed, but in the organization they don't stand out, they are modest and concentrate on what they love to do and do best: saving lives. In a voluntary and humanitarian project that began 93 years ago, and operates to this day without government budgeting and with the support of volunteers and friends around the world, MDA is one of the cornerstones of our country.
On Independence Day, it is appropriate to take a moment and salute those who accompany the citizens of the country and its soldiers in good and bad, in sickness and in health, in moments of rest and in moments of gathering, and to be happy that we have Magen David Adom - a strong, steadfast rescue organization with a unique DNA that will accompany Israel and preserve its strength, even in the many decades to come.
This article was written in cooperation with Magen David Adom