An orange vest, a story, and lots of tweets


Deep breath. First day at my new job. I am being given a tour around the building.

“This is Daniel. He biked from the north to the south of Israel in 24 hours (and five minutes) to raise $36,000 for an ambucycle. Say hi. And ah, over there, that’s Moti, wave hello. He trained as an EMT and saved his own daughter’s life before he even became certified! He’s also the Israeli spokesperson for the organization. And see that guy? He is out of the country ¾ weeks of the month fundraising and building awareness in other countries. He is also the one that helped the citizens of Haiti and Nepal when they had national disasters, and he also invented the system we use to locate where our volunteers are at any moment. And come here… meet Miriam. She’s a mom of 5, and an EMT, and oh, she started the Psycho-trauma unit…and her husband is also a Dr. and a volunteer medic here.”

Another deep breath.

My first week working in United Hatzalah was a combination of waking up in the twilight zone together with meeting ninety-five angels- except they are all Mishuganas. The only thought that went through me the first week of meeting my new co-workers was: Whatever these people are made of, I ain’t made out of the same stuff.

I even went as far as asking someone, who seemed like she was always in every situation that needed her help, “Do you have polyjuice potion?” It just didn’t seem possible for one person to always manage to be everywhere.

Working in United Hatzalah, so far, has been a total honor and I want to whisper “respect to you sir/mam” with a slight bow to almost everyone I pass in the hallway. Almost everyone who works here is also a volunteer, paramedic, EMT, or psycho-trauma responder.

But me? I just work here. My new job is to be a “DJ of digital storytelling” to quote the “holy brother” that trained me for this job. I have been told to use my storytelling skills along with a good dose of vision, a heaping spoonful of creativity, with a dash of entertainment… And voila! I am supposed to be spreading the mission of United Hatzalah to the world. No pressure.

The only major challenge with this position is that there is too much content with not enough hours in the day.

You might think — sounds simple enough. It’s Hatzalah. It’s obviously about saving lives. So just tell all the stories of the lives that are being saved daily. Tweet a lot, post a lot, get followers, likes and create engagement. Send a newsletter, create a campaign, and tell digital stories. Done.

The only thing is, even though there is an average of 700 calls a day, I think I have only shared a handful of those stories in two weeks. Why? Because the real story of this organization is, believe it or not, not about the calls. (Although, they do make great stories.)

The story of this organization are the concepts, missions, and individuals of what’s going on behind the calls.

Two weeks ago, if I was asked to describe United Hatzalah, I would have said: saving lives.

Today, if you ask me (which you should) I will answer: United Hatzalah is about community, humanity, breaking down judgments and stigmas, saving all people of all nationalities, race and ethnic origin. This organization is about destroying barriers and building bridges, it’s about women power, it’s about accomplishing the impossible, it’s about using technology to its fullest, it’s about endless motivation, and innovation, it’s about friendship, reaching the masses, volunteers, donors, treating trauma as an emotional injury, proactivity in addition to reactivity, unity amongst Jews, Arabs, Christians and Druzes, and oh ya, saving lives.

Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, saved his first life single handedly as a teen by putting pressure on someone’s bleeding injury with his kippa. Since that day, him and his team (all extraordinary individuals) haven’t stopped removing whatever it is that needs to be removed in their own lives in order to save others lives. They have removed kippas, shirts off their backs, time from their day, personal egos, hours of sleep, getting home for dinner, being comfortable, being warm, having a meal, and in many cases, they even remove their own emotions. All for one purpose: humanity.

United Hatzalah is its own entity of first response medical volunteers that show up before an ambulance arrives. In the community, by the community, for the community. And all through unity. Those crucial seconds and minutes of an emergency, many times, holds a person at pause between life and death. With 3,200 volunteer medics all around Israel, the average response time that a volunteer arrives at a scene is 3 minutes or less. These heroes step on the stage and do whatever they can immediately, which the majority of the time, makes all the difference in the world.

I have read hundreds of stories the last two weeks. Car crashes, terrorist attacks, heart failure, buses falling down cliffs, rammings …and much more. All tragic beginnings. The beauty is, the majority of the stories have happy endings. I never have lived my days so filled with the knowledge of potential sadness, yet the punchline keeps finishing with: and they lived happily ever after.

It’s like Disneyland and the volunteers are all mini Mary Poppins. Even though that isn’t a realistic picture because obviously it’s not a wonderland as nothing is in life, the bottom line is that I now work in an environment of miracles and with people who understand the preciousness of each and every human.

I have always been a storyteller. Whether it was to my campers, my sisters or my sons. Storytelling is second nature for me. The beauty of my new job is that these stories that, I have the merit to tell, are real life situations that happen in our neighborhoods every single day.

So I’ll continue to write, create, tweet, hashtag, tag, post, campaign and raise awareness and raise funds (please G-d!). However, as I do that, I will also whisper “thank you my Creator” with a slight bow, as I pass through my hallway towards my bed each night. “Thank you that my family and I got through another day safely and thank you for allowing me to be a part of this organization.”

About the Author
Sarah Nathan made Aliyah in 2007 from NY- single and passionate. She has two kids and lives in Jerusalem.