Mahane Yehuda Market Day and the Israeli Red Cross

Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
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Flag of Israel  , Jerusalem District,
Friday, August 10, 2012

As the bus pulls into Jerusalem I notice the Magen David Adom, MDA, (Israeli Red Cross) office not far from the central station. On a whim I walk over and am lucky to meet Felix, one of the supervising paramedics, who kindly gives me a quick tour of the facility. For those of you out of the Red Cross loop, Israel's denial of membership into the International Red Cross Society has been a controversial topic- causing many American Red Cross supporters to withhold financial support of the organization- up until several years ago when a resolution was agreed upon. What many people don't realize is that the ARC withheld payment of annual dues to the International Society for years in a show of solidarity with Israel. Israel uses the Star of David, a religious symbol, as the organization's logo. As the MDA is the sole provider of first response within the country, including the occupied territories, this symbol was inflammatory. Finally, a neutral symbol was selected, (this is one of the seven tenets of the Red Cross Movement) and Israeli responders working outside of the country's borders now wear a red crystal on their uniforms to identify themselves.
Felix and I agreed that it is absurd for the Red Cross to be a target of violence under any circumstances, as we walked by their bullet proof response vehicle...
In Israel, as in many of the countries I've visited, the MDA operates the country's fleet of ambulances in addition to teaching first aid and collecting blood. They are the only licensing agency in country for EMTs and paramedics and even train the army. They have about 1,200 volunteers in Jerusalem alone, many of them youth, 16 and up. The kids do everything but respond to emergencies in the most dangerous scenarios, such as those in the territories (they don't call them "occupied" here).
Bay Area Red Cross volunteers would be so jealous- Jerusalem volunteers take home motor scooters when they're on call for faster response until paramedics can arrive. They had many other cool vehicles- a small 4x4, used to navigate small alleys like those in the Old City, an ambulance staffed with EMTs (even the drivers must be qualified EMTs), and an ICU staffed with paramedics and the more advanced equipment they need to perform immediate care. They're even qualified to do field surgeries!
The MDA staff are international, multi-faith and multi-lingual (they'll use a conference line for immediate access to translators- Felix speaks perfect Hebrew, English and Russian!) and of course they provide care to anyone, regardless of creed or nationality.
Just the day before in Tel Aviv, I had taken a photo of a Red Cross ambulance with "Hong Kong Supports the Magen David Adom" written in the side. I had seen similar vehicles from the UK and Canada around town. I was about to send a message to Red Cross colleagues asking what that was all about, but Felix was able to fill me in. It takes about $100,000 USD to sponsor an ambulance, and maybe two to three times that to sponsor an ICU. The support doesn't necessarily cone from the country itself, rather an individual that can designate their gift to an ambulance within a specific city or "where the need is greatest".
Ok, off my soapbox now. Like they say, once a Red Crosser, always a Red Crosser. But it was very cool to see the MDA first hand- thanks Felix, next time I'll call ahead!

Jerusalem's biggest market was as busy as I'd expected for a Friday afternoon. Everyone was doing their shopping for the weekend. My China mob skills definitely paid off. You have to have sharp elbows with this crowd!
Found an amazing fromagerie. Keren- can't believe David Lebovitz didn't mention these guys in his blog! Enjoyed a picnic with a yummy bloomy rind cheese, a fresh baguette and peaches while local kids played in the "river".
Wandered down Ben Yehuda street, which is a pedestrian mall filled with cafes and shops before catching the last bus back to Tel Aviv before the sun went down.
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Comments

adam on

you should share this with alissa! she loves the MDA!

Keren on

I think my dear DL was on a tour of sorts so he didn't get to choose too much. Sounds like a great, warm time out there!

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