Philip Bendheim

Surviving a Hezbollah Power Grid Strike

Yad Sarah Mobile Oxygen Concentrators  - Courtesy of Yad Sarah
Yad Sarah Mobile Oxygen Concentrators - Courtesy of Yad Sarah

Israel faces unprecedented security challenges – so Israel’s response needs to be unprecedented as well, and we at Yad Sarah are doing our best to contribute to that. In the face of the multi-front war that the country currently faces, our organization, which provides a vital array of compassionate health and home care services for people of all ages – is undertaking a first-time-ever, first-time-anywhere project: We are working to provide life-saving oxygen supply, ensuring that thousands of people dependent on oxygen support can get it, even if the power goes out. 

According to experts, the possibility of a mass, general power outage in Israel exists, especially as the war against Hezbollah escalates. The Lebanese terror group is known to have thousands of precision missiles that could target Israel’s main power stations in Hadera and Ashkelon – leaving millions in the dark for days, if not longer. Of course, none of us should be panicking – this is a threat that has existed for years, and G-d willing won’t come to fruition. But the Homefront Command, the agency responsible for the security of citizens during emergencies, has recently warned Israelis to be ready for “an extensive blackout” in the event of “development of a full-scope military event in the north.” 

A multi-day nationwide power outage would be a major inconvenience for most of us, but for the most vulnerable it could be a death warrant. Among those most at risk are people who need supplemental oxygen in order to breathe. These systems generally require electricity or batteries charged with electricity, to operate. So Yad Sarah has developed a systemic solution for the thousands of Israelis who need at-home oxygen treatments to be able to survive an extended power outage. Yad Sarah facilities around the country will serve as emergency “oxygen stations”; providing cylinders, oxygen concentrators that can be charged by fuel-powered generators, and portable battery-operated units as well. This will allow the equipment to operate without electricity,  thus ensuring that those dependent on oxygen support can get it. Those facilities have already been supplied and will be able to quickly and efficiently loan out equipment to people in need when and if the time comes.

This endeavor is only possible due to our dedicated staff and volunteers, and their innovative mindset. Ensuring that sufficient equipment gets to the appropriate Yad Sarah facilities has demanded innovation in both planning and logistics. Thousands of additional oxygen concentrators and other pieces of respiratory equipment oxygen concentrators were ordered as a precaution, long before the October 7th massacre that set off the war with Hamas and Hezbollah – and more have been purchased since the war started. With the embargo caused by the Houthi Sea Attacks; and the consequential life-threatening delay recently Yad Sarah airlifted 1,000 portable battery-operated oxygen concentrators.

Jerusalem has been identified as the city with the largest demand for the oxygen concentrators, and Yad Sarah’s “Yirmiyahu33” wellness hotel will operate as a central oxygen station, with the organization’s nearby headquarters and adjoining hospitality units prepared to convert their facilities as needed. Besides Jerusalem, the stations will be set up in other cities, including Be’er Sheva, Rishon Lezion, Ra’anana, Haifa and Netanya. The effort is being coordinated with government ministries, HMOs, local authorities and community organizations. We are determined to ensure that no Israeli who needs medical equipment of any kind – especially oxygen concentrators – are left in the lurch. In fact, Yad Sarah’s hotline is already working on a precautionary basis to issue some of these portable concentrators now, and register other individuals likely to need this equipment, so we can quickly and efficiently contact and provide them with aid in the event of an emergency. 

It’s an unprecedented solution to an unprecedented security issue, but it’s far from the first time we have done something new and groundbreaking because life demanded it. For example, just as Covid was beginning to spread around the world in early 2020, we ordered thousands of oxygen pulse oximeters, seeing them as a crucial tool to predict the need for further medical intervention in people with respiratory infections. More recently, foreseeing the logistical issues that were likely to develop as a result of the war, Yad Sarah has ordered large amounts of equipment from abroad, and over the past several months has distributed a full year’s worth of medical equipment loans, in order to ensure that all those who need equipment have access to it, no matter what happens. 

It is no secret that living and working in Israel requires this kind of innovation and flexibility. This is why the country is known as the Start-Up Nation, and this approach and attitude are especially important during emergencies. Crisis often brings out both the worst and best in people, and I’m proud that in the case of Yad Sarah, this crisis is bringing out our best and most innovative solutions, solutions that will ensure that those who can’t breathe on their own can survive – and thrive.

About the Author
Philip Bendheim is a dedicated second-generation volunteer in the Yad Sarah family. He is a director of Yad Sarah's International Board of Overseers and USA Friends of Yad Sarah
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