I grew up in Haifa, then Israel’s main port town. I love the Mediterranean Sea and I love to swim in it. During the summer I frequented a private beach close to my home, which was called ‘The Calm Beach’ (In Hebrew Ha’chof Ha’shaket). Calm, because the port’s wave breakers created a section of the sea inlet with hardly any waves and thus safe for swimming. Adjacent to this beach was and is Rambam hospital, already then the largest hospital to serve Israel’s north.

What attracted me to write about the Rambam Medical Center of 2014, a government hospital that not all its expenses are covered by its owner, is first, its location in my former hometown, where I grew up, and second, this hospital is about to make history. The hospital will have the largest subterranean makeshift medical center in the world; 1,500 car capacity subterranean garage will turn to be a 2,000 beds hospital if Israel, G-D forbid, is attacked and hospitalization becomes a critical issue.

Before-a car parking lot

Before-a car parking lot

After-the parking lot turned hospital

After-the parking lot turned hospital

In order to present the entire story, recently, while they were in Los Angeles to set up their local office, I met with two charming ladies, Michele Segelnick, Executive Director and Lea Bernstein, Associate Director of American Friends of Rambam, organization active since 2006, with headquarters in New York City.

From R-Lea Bernstein, Associate Director and Michele Segelnic, Executive Director

From R-Lea Bernstein, Associate Director and Michele Segelnic, Executive Director

I was told that Professor Rafi Beyar, the former dean of the Technion, now the director general of Rambam, is a man of vision. He is focused on turning Rambam into a bridge to world’s health.

In Israel, because of its neighboring countries’ hostilities, from the country’s inception there was a shelter in each building built; over time the shelter has evolved to become a mamad.

The mamad is a protected space, kind of shelter built into the building’s shell whose occupants it is intended to serve. Due to the Scud missiles attacks on Israel, during the Gulf War, Israel decided on the construction of mamad-shelter in all new constructions. The purpose of the protected space-mamad-is to provide protection against air and rocket attacks when the warning time frame is too short to allow reaching the shelter. Access to a shelter located on each floor where people reside, or even within the apartment itself, significantly reduces the time to reach it. Likewise, making the shelter-mamad part of a residence or the floor space raises the level of its maintenance standard. The protected space-mamad is designed to protect its user from attack of bombs containing shredding explosives. It is also sealed to poison gas from entering and thus provides partial unconventional attack protection. In the protected space-mamad it is possible to install air filters in case there is a need to stay inside it for a long time, or when there is a biological, chemical, or radioactive assault. In time of need Rambam Hospital will become a huge protected space-mamad, a fortified underground hospital that will bring uninterrupted medical care to northern Israel.
In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War Israel learned one other most important lesson, which brought about the Underground Act, to turn Rambam Hospital into a regional hospital serving the entire Israel’s north and twelve other hospitals. Due to the country’s need for a fortified emergency room to protect the military, civilians, staff, patients and casualties in time of an attack or a war, for seventy two hours the Rambam hospital will act as self contained medical center bomb shelter.

The Rambam medical center is partially built on wave breakers. The underground hospital, called the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital, now acting as subterranean garage is three storey level deep and its conditions resemble submarine conditions. During its constructions the workers had to seal it off in order to pump out the water under which the construction is submerged. It has been completed and will be in operation in a short while. Above it there are four new buildings coming up: the Ruth Rappaport Children’s hospital, at its final completion stage, due to open in May 2014, and the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center, due to open in December 2014; the Cardiovascular Hospital and the Biomedical Discovery Tower buildings still lack the funds to bring them to completion.

Rambam New Underground Hospital and 4 buildings above it

Rambam New Underground Hospital and 4 buildings above it

The Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital cost is 350 million dollars. Over 200 million were raised already and the rest is being raised as of this writing. This is a naming in honor opportunity; a special way to honor or memorialize a loved one or to permanently associate one’s own name. Your gift will help fund one of the most advanced initiatives of its kind in the world, and serve as a lasting reminder of your solidarity with the State of Israel and her people, at the time of their greatest need.

For more information on how you can make a lasting impact on the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital, please contact American Friends of Rambam: http://aforam.org/.

In time of need, your contribution will make life in Israel safe in the basement.