On Shabbat, July 30, Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah, visited the Young Israel of New Rochelle and briefed the community on his organization’s history of saving lives in Israel and now other countries. On this trip, Beer visited several communities across the USA. In his introduction of Beer to the Shabbat morning main shul minyan, Rabbi Chaim Axelrod described Beer as a “disrupter.”
Beer was raised in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Vegan. As a 6-year-old, he was standing at the bus stop on his way home from school when the No. 12 bus he was waiting to board exploded in the first bus bombing terrorist attack. An elderly man was crying out for help. At that age, Beer had no idea what to do other than run home with his brother. With this horrific memory, he decided he would dedicate his life to saving other lives.
At age 15, Beer completed an emergency medical technician course and joined an ambulance crew. “I couldn’t wait to actually save someone’s life,” he said. One eye-opening event was his ambulance call to Bayit Vegan for a child choking on food. Arriving 20 minutes later, due to heavy Jerusalem traffic, the team couldn’t revive the child. A nearby doctor, who had heard the ambulance approach, came to see if he could help. “The doctor was around the corner and could have helped sooner, had he known about this emergency,” Beer said.
At just 16 years old, with a radio receiver purchased from Radio Shack in New York, Beer began to monitor Israeli emergency services calls. One of his early “saves” came while he was working in his father’s shop. “A major car accident happened on the street down the block from my father’s store. An injured man was bleeding from a neck wound. Without any supplies, I had to find something to stop the bleeding. I grabbed my kippah and held it on the man’s neck.”
Later, at the hospital, a doctor advised that next time, Beer should use something else because the blood-drenched kippah was hard to remove from the wound. This taught him the importance of having medical supplies readily available.
That patient’s family asked Beer to visit him in the hospital to thank him for saving his life. Noting the man’s arm tattoo, he realized he was a Holocaust survivor.
With all of these experiences, he began recruiting volunteers to respond to medical emergencies in a timely fashion and with adequate supplies. Knowing governmental bureaucracy, he decided “I will start this up and say ‘sorry’ later.” This was his first successful disruption of the status quo.
United Hatzalah was also the pioneer of using ambucycles, which are specially equipped motorcycles to bring emergency services rapidly, regardless of local traffic. Beer attributes the idea to observing timely pizza delivery via motorcycles in Israel.
Recently, as the war in the Ukraine began, he received a call from an Israeli woman who was using a surrogate near Kyiv to carry a pregnancy for her. She learned that the surrogate delivered but escaped the hospital in Bucha hours later when it was attacked, leaving the newborn behind.
Beer secretly arranged a team to travel there and save the baby, bringing the four-day-old safely to the mother in Israel. This was one of many missions United Hatzalah has been doing since the war began.
Thousands of volunteers, male and female, from many walks of life all over Israel, are equipped with basic supplies. Computers track their locations and notify the five closest to any incident. They respond to thousands of calls daily.
During seudah shlishit at YINR, Beer related additional “reports from the field.” He recalled one of his first Arab volunteers. Once on board, the man helped deliver a Chassidic baby boy in the parents’ car at a gas station. “The baby’s father didn’t see who the helmeted man was, but called him their personal Moshiach and insisted on his being the sandek at the bris and that they would name the baby after him,” Beer said. “Mohammed declined the offers.” Several hundred Arabs are now affiliated with Hatzalah, proud to be saving lives in their own communities.
In March 2020, on a similar visit to Florida, Beer became the first COVID patient in Miami to be placed in an induced coma, on a respirator, for almost a month. When he awoke, he knew “having thousands davening” for him strengthened his resolve to continue his lifesaving work.
This November, United Hatzalah is coordinating a fundraising bike tour of Israel. Specific details can be found at https://pomegranate-travel.com/tour/united-hatzalah-challenge/ General details about Hatzalah can be found at
By Judy Berger