United Hatzalah inaugurates fleet of 76 rescue vehicles, purchased with Adelsons’ help

At a ceremony on Mount Herzl, Dr. Miriam Adelson says she and her husband used to give anonymously to the organization, but realized that doing so publicly led others to follow suit

United Hatzalah inaugurated a new fleet of 76 emergency vehicles, mostly motorcycles known as ambucycles, as well as a handful of ambulances and cars on Tuesday, the result of a joint initiative between the organization and Israeli-born philanthropist and conservative mega-donor Dr. Miriam Adelson and her sons, Adam and Matan Adelson.

The estimated $3.5 million fleet was revealed at a ceremony on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, which was attended by Israeli Health Minister Uriel Buso and World Zionist Organization Chair Yaakov Hagoel.

The rescue vehicles were lined up along the edges of the open square of Mount Herzl, normally reserved for state ceremonies, with festive balloons in an arch in front of the tomb of Theodore Herzl, and ceremony participants snapped pictures of themselves next to the gleaming bright orange ambucycles, which had been artfully arranged (for the benefit of a drone photographer) in the shape of the No. 76. 

The new emergency vehicles will be dispersed across Israel, including throughout the Gaza border area and the war-torn north, as well as to West Bank settlements. An upgraded ambulance and an emergency vehicle were dedicated by Adelson to the Hebron area in memory of Maor Lavi, who served as a United Hatzalah volunteer medic and was killed in Gaza six months ago. A bulletproof ambulance and an emergency vehicle were also dedicated to the memory of Elad Tomer, another United Hatzalah volunteer who was killed in the line of duty.

The 76 vehicles were meant to mark 76 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, and stand as a “testament of the resilience of Israel and its people,” according to the organizers of the dedication ceremony.

From left, World Zionist Organization Chair Yaakov Hagoel, United Hatzalah President Eli Beer, philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson, Israeli Health Minister Uriel Buso and Matan Adelson stand in front of new emergency vehicles donated to United Hatzalah on July 2, 2024.
From left, World Zionist Organization Chair Yaakov Hagoel, United Hatzalah President Eli Beer, philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson, Israeli Health Minister Uriel Buso and Matan Adelson stand in front of new emergency vehicles donated to United Hatzalah on July 2, 2024. (Courtesy/United Hatzalah)

On Oct. 7 United Hatzalah volunteers were among the first responders to treat and rescue the thousands of people wounded in the unprecedented Hamas attack on Israeli southern communities that killed 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians, and injured thousands more, with 250 people taken hostage into Gaza.

Eighteen United Hatzalah volunteers have been killed since the attack. One United Hatzalah volunteer paramedic, Bar Kupershtein, 21, who was a staff member at the Nova Music Festival, is among those still captive in Gaza.  

“This terrible war took the lives of members of the United Hatzalah family,” Linor Attias, United Hatzalah deputy director of international emergency operations who was among the first responders on Oct. 7, told the guests at the opening of the ceremony. “All of us here in the State of Israel, along with all Diaspora Jews, are facing one of the most difficult and complex times we have ever known. All of our lives changed on Oct. 7 in the murderous and heinous attack of the terrorist organization Hamas.”

“These emergency tools that you see here will be delivered by the transport department of the Rescue Union to the dedicated volunteers. Across the country and accompanied by operations headquarters, they will start saving human lives from the next few hours,” she added.

Made up of over 7,000 volunteers from across Israel, United Hatzalah provides professional lifesaving emergency medical treatment across Israel, with the new fleet helping them to come closer to attaining their vision of reaching emergencies in 90 seconds, said Eli Beer, president and founder of United Hatzalah. Since its establishment, United Hatzalah volunteers have provided lifesaving medical treatment in over 6.5 million medical emergency cases in Israel.

Beer told eJewishPhilanthropy that even in times of war, the core needs the emergency vehicles are responding to include heart attacks — with 2,000 such emergencies a day — emergency pregnancy deliveries; United Hatzalah volunteers assisted in six emergency deliveries just on the day of the dedication ceremony, as well as car accidents and other quotidian emergencies.

“Every one of these vehicles, these ambucycles, that we add on the road reduces the time that we respond to an emergency. Every single one of them makes our vision of 90 seconds even closer,” he said.

He said the United Hatzalah paramedic Oct. 7 first responders have all been undergoing treatment with the organization’s psychotrauma team to help them cope with the trauma of what they experienced on that day.

“Our volunteers still feel [like they are] in the middle of Oct. 7, they still wake up in the morning like I do, and still feel it’s in the battle of Oct. 7, it’s the longest day ever in the history of the Jewish people,” he said. “We’re still in the middle so we still have a long process to go.”

Attias, who joined United Hatzalah after her uncle was killed in a terrorist attack in 2003 and saw that paramedics in the organization came from all sectors of Israeli society, told eJP she knows Oct. 7 will always be a part of who she is.

“Now I know that I’m going to live with Oct. 7, and it’s just learning how to live with that forever,” said Attias, noting that part of her therapy was to get back into the ambulance, to feel the adrenaline rush of knowing she was going out to help someone, as soon as possible.

During the ceremony, Adelson — a physician by training — remarked that even a 10-minute wait for an ambulance can mean the difference between life and death, and praised Beer for establishing United Hatzalah with the use of ambucycles allowing paramedics to reach emergency situations quickly.

“The fact that these people are volunteering and saving lives — the gates of the Garden of Eden are already open for them — but don’t rush, you don’t need to (go) quickly,” she said.

According to The New York Times, Adelson, the widow of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is expected to be one of the biggest donors in the U.S. presidential elections, reportedly poised to spend more than $90 million on former President Donald Trump’s bid to retake the White House.  

At the Mount Herzl ceremony she said that when she and her husband began donating to United Hatzalah, they did so anonymously.

“We were very happy. As Sheldon always said, ‘it feels good to do good.’ We were told that if we give our name, others would join us,” she said. “That is what brought us to establish the Adelson Family Emergency Unit of United Hatzalah emergency vehicles. The memory of the volunteers will live on forever, and their ambulances will save many lives,” she said.