“Shalom! Due to a serious need for blood, you are invited to donate blood today or tomorrow at the donation center which has been set up at Hebrew University’s Givat Ram Campus in the Administrative Offices Center between the hours of 9:30 and 15:30 (3:30 p.m.). Your donation will save lives! Thank you.” When this text message appears in Hebrew on my cellular phone screen, I immediately change my plans. I rearrange my schedule so that within an hour, absolutely no exceptions, I am at the designated blood donation center. The previous sentences carry a serious sense of urgency because I observe the Jewish Talmudic injunction: “All Israel is responsible each for the other” and donating blood is a serious responsibility. A few years ago when I learned that I, along with only 32% of the total population of Israel, belong to the universal donor blood type group, I registered with MDA Blood Services. When I receive the above message it means that the National Blood Services Reserve is about to hit its red line minimum and that it is time for me to donate another pint.
Today the State of Israel through its Magen David Adom (MDA) – National Blood Services has an ultramodern centralized blood bank which serves all of the nation’s hospitals and every single resident of Israel irrespective of citizenship status, race, ethnic group or religion. Additionally MDA National Blood Services assist neighboring countries, those with whom Israel has peace treaties, during their times of large scale medical emergencies. But this wasn’t always the case between 1950 when MDA was officially recognized by the Knesset (Parliament of the State of Israel) and the establishment of centralized blood services in 1987 even though part of MDA’s mandate is “to maintain a storage service of blood, plasma and their byproducts” the MDA was not always able to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of all of the residents of Israel.
When I visited Israel in 1985, I took a cab near Bikur Holim Hospital in the center of Jerusalem. Suddenly the cab’s two way radio crackled and I heard a gravelly voice. Back then, I didn’t speak Hebrew but I was able to sense the urgency in the voice of the cab dispatcher as he spoke over the radio. My cabbie responded “Ani, Michael” (“Me, Michael!”), then he turned to me and said: “Blood needs special, we go hospitals running, NOW!” And we were off. We stopped at the emergency entrance of Bikur Holim Hospital picked up two large picnic coolers, raced cross town to the emergency entrance of Al Mokassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital where after delivering the coolers, without skipping a beat Michael the cabbie, sheepishly smiled at me and said: “Ok, sorry for this, AB specials bloods was need to delivering. You do ‘mitzvah’ (good deed), no complaining, I give you free ride. Where to go for you?” I remember not being sure which was more astonishing the fact that the cabbie was giving me a free ride or that the cabbie had just transferred blood from a Jewish hospital to a Moslem hospital in Jerusalem! Years later, after I immigrated to Israel I learned that my blood delivery adventure was no big deal, providing back up delivery services for MDA had been part of a very special unwritten agreement between MDA, the city’s hospitals and its cab drivers – Really, just another Middle Eastern norm!
Fortunately today things are very different. MDA National Blood Services has one central computer and dispatch services to all of the nation’s hospitals. But as we all should know a blood bank is only as strong as the willingness of people to donate blood! If you live in Israel, may I invite you to volunteer to “give blood and save a life” today? All you need to do is call 03-530-0400 and request the information for the blood donation station nearest to your home. If you do not live in Israel, you may wish to consider donating blood at your own local donation station and increasing the reserves of your own local blood bank.
I will add that: The MDA National Blood Services is part of Magen David Adom (literally: “Red Shield of David”) Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster and ambulance services. It is a member of the International Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Since June 2006 it is fully recognized by the ICRC as the national aid society of the State of Israel under the Geneva Conventions. MDA is singular among the world’s civilian emergency medical services as due to its special national aid society status it is allowed to become an auxiliary arm of the Israel Defense Forces during times of war.
For further information about the Magen David Adom’s services please visit their English language site at: