The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc with people’s lives. Unemployment in Israel has skyrocketed and tens of thousands of at-risk Israelis are struggling to access even the most essential resources. United Hatzalah has stepped up to help coordinate and deliver food packages to elderly citizens, Holocaust survivors and other affected populations. United Hatzalah has established the National Humanitarian Dispatch Center. Using United Hatzalah’s 1221 emergency helpline, a purpose-built secondary dispatch center and proprietary technology, operators locate the closest volunteers and alert them to the humanitarian emergency in their proximity. In cooperation with other agencies, there is a combined network of 30,000 volunteers to assist in delivering food, medications and other necessary supplies.

One such responder is United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Menachem Shapiro from the city of Lod, who willingly volunteers his time and energy to distribute food and medication to home-bound citizens. Last Thursday, Menachem was notified of a Holocaust survivor in need of medication. Jumping on his ambucycle, Menachem headed over to the home to pick up the prescriptions and magnetic HMO card, and then went over to the pharmacy. When it was finally his turn, the pharmacist filled up two bags with different medications but was unable to provide additional medicines the woman required without a prescription. The dedicated United Hatzalah volunteer quickly sped off to the local HMO, where he obtained the prescriptions needed and renewed the older prescriptions. After another trip to the pharmacy, Menachem returned to the home. Leaving the bags by the door, he rang the bell and stepped back a couple of meters so as to protect the woman from exposure.

The woman opened the door, eager to speak to her rescuer. Originally from Ukraine, she conversed with Menachem in Russian (in which Menachem is fluent). “Since my time in the camps, it frightens me to look at people with their faces covered,” she told him in a quivering voice. “Can you take off your mask?” The medic stepped back a little more and obliged. Tears rolled from the survivor’s eyes as she thanked Menachem for his help. She was clearly overwhelmed by his care, by the feeling that she was not alone. Menachem asked her if she needed food or anything else, but she assured him that her needs were met. Menachem got back on your ambucycle escorted by her heartfelt words of gratitude. Later, he phoned her to check if she had any further requirements and heard the tears in her voice as she thanked him profusely for his offer.

“In this time, there are so many people in need of help,” related Menachem. ”There was another person, a needy 80-year-old man, whose oven suddenly broke. He had no food and no way to cook. We arranged to get him an oven delivered so that he could have warm food and prepare meals for himself again.”

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.