Why the Hatzolah Rescue Units ought to make us all proud . . .

An interesting new story broke out in the Israeli papers yesterday. Haredi rabbis are upset over Mogen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent to the Red Cross) placing a station in the heart of the Haredi community in Jerusalem. They are objecting to the lack of “modesty clad” women who would be assigned to the station.They fear that the ladies walking around the community in unacceptable garb might  violate the community tznius (modesty) code. Although some authorities suggested placing the station adjacent to the Haredi epicenter, the Haredim still objected and vowed to keep the MDA as far out of their community as possible. I suspect there is something more to this news-story.

After I read this short story, I began wondering. What is the real issue that is bothering the Haredim in Jerusalem? Experience has taught me that often times  people talk around the problem rather than speak directly to the problem that bothers them. I suspect this case is a good example; the central issue is not really about the “immodest dressed” nurses of the MDA. The news-story may be intimating there is a turf war developing in Israel between the MDA and the  Hatzolah EMS (“Rescue Unit”).

Incidentally, the Hatzolah  is one of the great Haredi success stories we have heard much about in the past decade or longer; historically, they began in the 1960s in Williamsburg. By all accounts, their work is outstanding. One of my Brooklyn friends tells me that the Hatzolah responds much faster than 911–pretty impressive, no?

Hatzolah, as an organization, is the largest volunteer ambulance service in the world. Chevra Hatzalah (Rescue Groups) in New York has more than a thousand volunteer EMTs and Paramedics who answer more than 250,000 calls each year with private vehicles and a fleet of more than 70 ambulances.

Over the last decade or more, Hatzalah distinguished itself as being among the first responders to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.This group recently sent units to Haiti to help with the rescue efforts. Alongside other rescue workers, Hatzalah volunteers routinely risk their lives to rescue, treat, and transport countless victims of the terrorist attack. [1] In the process they earned great respect from their peers in the emergency service community.

Although I have been critical of the Haredi communities, I believe this is one Haredi organization that has its act together and is doing the kind of work that ought to make us all proud–regardless of our religious affiliation and ideology.



[1] A number of Hatzoloh volunteers wearing “Flatbush Hatzoloh Paramedics” uniforms are featured in the documentary film 102 Minutes That Changed America.

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