On a private visit to Vancouver, Israeli First Lady Sarah Netanyahu took time to meet with local Magen David Adom volunteers. (photo from MDA Vancouver)
Israeli First Lady Sarah Netanyahu was in Vancouver recently for a private visit. As a means of recognizing both Vancouver’s all-volunteer efforts in support of Magen David Adom and the outstanding work of MDA itself in Israel, which also relies heavily on volunteers, Netanyahu expressed great pleasure at the opportunity to pose for a photo honoring the organization. MDA has been ranked by residents of Israel as the second most-beloved organization, with an approval rating of 86.8 percent, following the Israel Defence Forces, which scored a rating of 90 percent (see t-r-i.co.il/news/ni_131.pdf).
In a brief meeting with Netanyahu, there was discussion of her tour of MDA facilities and the time she spent with volunteers in Israel during Operation Protective Edge, including youth from the Greater Vancouver area who are serving with MDA in Israel as volunteer medics and were active during the operation. These volunteers include Bar Frenklach, Benjamin Mamon, Camille St-Cyr and Gal Ziv.
Netanyahu also learned of the ambulance recently inscribed with a dedication to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whereupon she praised Canada as being a country with a very special place in her heart.
Vancouver Israeli Tech Club Fall Meetup keynote speaker Daniel Friedmann of communications company MDA, left, with presenters Yaron Bazaz, co-founder of the app Downtown and a VIT organizer, centre, and Meir Deutsch of IKOMED. (photo by Baila Lazarus)
If you’ve ever tried to start a business, you’ll know how crucial it is to have the proper support around you. This includes finding the right management and staff, marketing and growth strategists and, not least, connections with investors. Add to that the challenge of being an immigrant, and the hurdles seem impassable.
It was out of this need to support startups that Yaron Bazaz, Eran Elizur and Ronen Tanne launched the Vancouver Israeli Tech Club and its affiliate Meetup group one year ago. Bazaz had seen in California the models of business “ecosystems” that support the tech community.
“They provided a stage for local entrepreneurs to present their companies and expose themselves to potential investors, employees, media, etc.,” said Bazaz. “We didn’t have this in Vancouver. This type of ecosystem is 80 percent of the success. When you start a company, what you need is the first co-founder, the first investor, employees that are not necessarily looking for the hefty salary but have the entrepreneurial spirit to see your vision and are willing to participate.”
Within the Vancouver Jewish community, interest in VIT has garnered the group almost 350 members, as well as sponsorship from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the tech hub Discovery Parks.
So far, VIT has held four networking events. At its most recent, which took place in November, Bazaz presented his app – in Beta testing – called Downtown. It allows crowd-sourced data to let users know where the highest concentration of hip, good-looking young adults can be found in the downtown club scene at any given time.
Meir Deutsch, chief executive officer of IKOMED, also presented. His medical device company aims to reduce “the exposure to ionizing radiation during minimally invasive medical procedures.”
Events also include keynote speakers who are local businessmen connected to the Israeli community. At the November event, Daniel Friedmann, president and CEO of global communications company MDA, presented on MDA’s work in satellite technology and spoke about Israel’s contributions to unmanned vehicles, especially in how information-gathering has changed.
“During the Cold War, everyone knew where to look [for enemies],” he told the audience of about 200. “Today, we don’t know where the bad guys are. We don’t know where to look.”
There are also too many factors to look at, he said, and it’s impossible for any one organization to have the human-power to keep tabs. So reconnaissance crafts, such as satellites and drones, as well as the software, have to be more technically adept at recording even subtle changes on the ground.
“If the software shows us where some cars have been moved, we can detect bombs that were placed on the road overnight,” explained Friedmann.
Entrepreneur Shahar Ben Halevi has attended all of VIT’s events.
“You learn about other entrepreneurs’ journeys and lessons they have learned on their path,” he said. “You can always learn more about life, about business, about setting goals and the right mind set to get them.”
Ben Halevi, who came to Vancouver nine years ago, is the founder of Cornfield Media, which has media projects in different stages of development.
“One is an online streaming platform for children’s stories on multilingual channels,” he said. “The service allows parents and children to read the same stories in different languages.” Ben Halevi has a book on Amazon and had a short in this year’s Vancouver Jewish Film Festival.
He said he’s taken away lessons from VIT on team building, courage, being visionary and how to turn your vision into reality. “How to be happy with what you achieved and not depressed about the things that you haven’t done yet.”
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.
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.