54: “Alone, Together” Part IV - The Lifesavers

The global pandemic has introduced us to many “lifesavers”—doctors, nurses, and medical staff who are on the frontlines day in and day out. But what happens when those ‘superheroes’ need to be saved themselves? And can saving a life end up saving your life, too?

If, God forbid, you find yourself in a medical emergency in Israel, you dial 101 for Magen David Adom. Yet more often than not, before an ambulance shows up, someone else—often riding a motorcycle and donning a bright orange vest—will appear on the scene. These are the volunteer medics of a national organization called United Hatzalah, or Ichud Hatzalah in Hebrew. And those extra moments? They can literally be the difference between life and death. 

Ichud Hatzalah responds to roughly 1,800 calls a day, and has—according to the Israeli Heart Society—reduced the rate of cardiac-arrest deaths in Israel by as much as 50%. Private emergency medical services exist around the world, of course. But Ichud Hatzalah is unique: While most focus on a specific neighborhood or community, they cover the entire country. Their volunteers are Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, religious, secular, you name it. And what’s more, their services are completely free. The organization is the brainchild of a Jerusalemite who—for more than three decades now—has been single-mindedly focused on one goal: saving as many lives as possible. 

But what happens when, in the midst of a global pandemic, this lifesaver needs to saved himself? Being saved, we learn, can often be harder than it seems.

The episode was mixed by Sela Waisblum and scored by Joel Shupack with music from Blue Dot Sessions and sound-design help from Yochai Maital. The end song, “Refa Tziri” is sung by Akiva Turgeman, Ariel Zilber, Berry Sakharof, Amir Benayoun, and Lior Elmaliach. The words are from a piyyut, or Jewish liturgical poem, written by Rabbi Raphael Antebi Tabbush of Aleppo, Syria (1853-1919), and the melody is attributed to a Judeo-Spanish song called “Triste Vida” (‘A Sad Life’). 


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