MDA, (Magen David Adom) Israel's first-aid and disaster relief organization, proudly emblematized by the Red Star of David, plays a pivotal role saving lives in Israel regardless of race, religion or political affiliation during times of both war and peace. This humanitarian organization is much like the American Red Cross and 911 emergency services. When you dial 101 in Israel, these medical teams will perform lifesaving procedures such as opening the trachea in the case of a breathing obstruction before patients arrive at the hospital, caring for such medical conditions as heart attacks, strokes, road accidents, pregnancies, those injured by terrorist attacks and more.
With a current fleet of 800 ambulances (some armored), operating from 123 Emergency Medical Stations throughout Israel, and 16 MDA Stations in West Bank communities, MDA carries a colossal responsibility for its nation and those near it.
First established in 1930 by a nurse named Karen Tenebaum as a result of the Arab riots in 1929 that attacked Jewish farming and urban settlements, Magen David Adom has provided vital medical support to the public for all pre-hospital emergency needs such as medical, disaster, ambulance and blood services for over eighty years via its team of professionals and volunteers. Adhering to the Hebrew word, Arevut, the responsibility ‘to care for other people, the same way we care about ourselves’, MDA today has over 13,000 volunteers dedicating themselves to aid all those in need of immediate medical care. Their humanitarian efforts extend beyond the borders of Israel, helping those international communities victimized by environmental disasters such as Haiti, Japan and New Orleans.
About ten years after MDA was founded, a group of Americans aligned together, also practicing Arevut and founded the American Red Magen David for Palestine, now called American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) which is the sole U.S. fundraising arm of MDA year-round. During World War II, American supporters shipped over the much needed ambulances and blood collection vans and in 1950 when MDA was officially declared as Israel's National Red Cross Society, AFMDA spearheaded fundraising campaigns to raise the monies necessary for MDA to continue its lifesaving efforts.
In the early 1980's, AFMDA raised over $32 million in funds to build a National Blood Services Center for MDA which supplies 100% of the Israeli Defense Forces blood needs and 95% of the blood needed for hospitals and also houses Israel’s Cord Blood Bank which is the platform for much of Israel's stem cell research. They receive 1200-1400 units of blood per day which is then separated into parts to treat various health issues. In addition to locals donating blood, American Friends of Magen David Adom have organized blood drives for tourists visiting Israel, often setting them up in hotels during peak holidays as there is often a shortage during this time. In 2007, over 800 tourists donated blood. Although the AFMDA no longer holds blood drives in Israel, tourists can visit any MDA station and donate blood if they wish.
In the last five years, during times of extreme vulnerability, AFMDA rolled out massive emergency fundraising campaigns to ensure MDA had all the tools it needed to serve its nation's emergency healthcare needs.
In 2006, when Israel was attacked by Hezbolla rockets (The Lebanon War) destroying many of MDA's needed medical supplies and ambulances, AFMDA declared a Code Red relentlessly raising funds to replenish MDA with the necessary resources for its survival. MDA received approximately 47 ambulances: 36 standard (Basic Life Support) ambulances, 10 Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICUs) and one armored ambulance.
In 2009, AFMDA declared another Code Red during the Gaza War when Israeli communities were struck with rockets, renovating MDA stations which had been under attack, building crucial emergency stations and generating funds to nourish MDA with other medical resources.
For 72 years, during times of war and peace, AFMDA has been a strong ally for the humanitarian efforts of MDA which currently cares for approximately 600,000 patients annually.
Since its inception, the AMFDA has generated solidarity from all those that desire to help save lives in Israel. For some it is a religious calling while for others it is an emotional, cultural or spiritual connection to the country and its humanitarian efforts.
There are AFMDA chapters all over the United States and while no Code Red has been declared, in these uncertain times AFMDA is accelerating its fundraising efforts to ensure that MDA is prepared for more routine emergencies, like car accidents and heart attacks, and that it will be prepared if any attacks should occur.
In the Midwest:
A group of people, in the Chicago land area, are raising funds for AFMDA via an ambitious adventure of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, a 19,336 foot mountain in Africa: Operation Climb.
The Great Vest Side Men's Group, an organization originally created as a social gathering for those growing up on the West Side of Chicago circa 1930-1960 has also blossomed into a fundraising arm for charities, AFMDA in particular. They are currently raising funds for their 8th ambulance (approximate cost: $100,000) and a second pediatric dialysis machine for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. (approximate cost:$25,000) The word, "Vest" in the organization's name was a tribute to many of the member's immigrant Jewish parents' accents.
For more info on AFMDA in the Midwest Region:
Contact Midwest Regional Director: Sandy Rosen (888-674-4871)
In the West:
In Los Angeles, 13 year old Robert Leeds raised money to purchase two ambulances for MDA in lieu of gifts for his bar-mitzvah, setting an extraordinary example for his peers.
Currently, in the West:
On July 9th, Magen David Synagogue in Beverly Hills is holding an event to raise funds for an ambulance. The event will be hosted at a congregant’s home and the ambulance will be funded by donations from synagogue members.
On July 14th, Pacific Palisades resident Vivian Feintech will be hosting a 60th birthday party, but in lieu of gifts, she will be asking friends and family for donations toward an ambulance. Impacted by a recent visit to the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been a target of bombs from Gaza, she was inspired to fundraise for AMFDA.
For more info on AFMDA in the Western Region:
Contact Western Regional Director: Yossi Mentz (800) 323-2371
In the Northeast:
Recently, NYC Mayor Bloomberg donated the new MDA station in Jerusalem named after his father, recognizing MDA's spirit of philanthropy.
For more info on AFMDA in the Northeast Region:
Contact Northeastern Regional Director: Gary Perl (866) 632-2763
Over the last four years, AFMDA has raised over $100 million dollars providing emergency vehicles, blood mobiles, renovations to MDA stations, medical supplies, administrative training and infrastructure to the MDA National Blood Services Center. Its valorous deeds will continue and will always be remembered.