MDA on the front line
An anonymous contribution helped purchase a Magen David Adom ambulance for Israel in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent trip there. (photo from Magen David Adom)
Yarin Levi, 16, was moments from death after a rocket exploded near him in Ashkelon during the recent Gaza Operation Protective Edge. His life was saved by Ainav Asulin, a senior paramedic for Magen David Adom (MDA). In the course of five minutes, the paramedic secured him, performed CPR, arranged transport and ensured the hospital where he was transported would have blood transfusion supplies to save his life. Levi would live to thank the paramedic that saved his life.
While Asulin is not from Vancouver, during Operation Protective Edge, four Jewish volunteers from Vancouver and Richmond took part in the overseas volunteer program for MDA operations, responding to the aftermath of rockets, as most of Israel’s population ran to bomb shelters. The organization’s Vancouver office was involved not only in the sending of volunteers but also in securing donations for the procurement of MDA hardware, including ambulances, mobile intensive care units and medical equipment. Due to an anonymous contribution, an ambulance was gifted to Israel in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent trip there.
According to Roy Grinshpan, president of the B.C. regional chapter of MDA, there is always room to grow. At present, 40 percent of donations come from Christian organizations, and 12,000 volunteers worldwide keep MDA functioning, he told the Independent.
Donors that purchase ambulances with their contributions can have them dedicated, he said. Currently, ambulances in operation from Vancouver are based in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam and Modiin in central Israel and Carmiel in the north. According to Grinshpan, these ambulances are produced in a Montreal factory where Israeli orders represent a significant volume despite its small size. “Every year, Israel tries to upgrade their infrastructure” through research and development, and experience, he said. “It’s a win-win situation as [the] plant can keep their modifications” for use on other ambulances.
According to Ilan Klein, a front-line paramedic and deputy director of the fundraising and international relations department for MDA, who was in Vancouver on a cross-country speaking tour, the connection between MDA internationally and Vancouver can only be strengthened. Comparing the relationship to the Hebrew word for life, chai, he said that a strong connection is key to saving lives in Israel. “The community in Canada can help buy ambulances through a trusted relationship,” he said. “Two sides need to work to make a connection…. MDA needs to also invest more in speakers, paramedics and volunteers to come here to speak.”
Responding to the needs of MDA, Klein was quick to conceptualize the need for preparedness. During Operation Protective Edge, there were 600 Israelis
injured, 30 severely. The role of MDA was to respond to every person in distress. “Eighteen days before [Protective Edge], three teens were killed, and MDA began to be ready for more escalation,” said Klein. One thousand ambulances were on standby and 300 were activated to be ready for a fast response. MDA was an integral on-call first responder during the conflict. “While during a siren the Israeli people run to shelter, the MDA go out to help,” he said. “We work with the police and army [to respond quickly].”
Thanking the community, Klein said that Jews around the world, including Vancouver Jews, can and will continue to play an essential role in keeping MDA operational. “MDA and Israel would not have succeeded without a Diaspora Jewish community.”
Gil Lavie is a freelance correspondent, with articles published in the Jerusalem Post, Shalom Toronto and Tazpit News Agency. He has a master’s of global affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.