Tel Aviv 911

Magen David Adom, an Israeli paramedic organization, is busy day and night tending to the sick and wounded. Its staff of 25,000 medics and 29,000 volunteers respond to a wide assortment of emergencies ranging from traffic accidents to terrorist attacks.

Martin Himel, a Canadian journalist based in Israel, has been one of its volunteers for the past two decades. In his 45-minute documentary, Tel Aviv 911, he describes what he and his colleagues do as first responders. The film will be broadcast on Vision TV in Toronto on Monday, May 16 at 9 p.m.

In the first scene, Himel is seen driving an ambulance to an apartment building in Tel Aviv. He and his crew will attend to a woman who was injured after a balcony collapsed.

Like many of the volunteers, Himel is over the age of 60. He often works with teenagers, but the generational divide poses no problems, judging by Magen David Adom’s average response time of only seven minutes, compared to 15 minutes in Toronto.

An app on his cell phone immediately alerts Himel to new cases, enabling him to arrive at the scene almost instantaneously.

As the movie unfolds, Himel and his fellow medics assist, among others, a 50-year-old man who overdosed on drugs and a young man who fainted at a mall following an anxiety attack.

Abba Richman

“My mission in life is to help people,” says Abba Richman, a 72-year-old volunteer. “We treat people medically and psychologically.”

Himel treats victims with “tender loving care” and does not expect anything in return. “It’s an act of pure giving,” he says.

It’s a stressful job that has become all the more demanding since the coronavirus pandemic. And when a case is particularly traumatic, everyone is deeply affected.

Martin Himel drives a Magen David Adom ambulance

Himel’s associates come from all walks of life.

Areen Kabaha is a religious Muslim woman from the Israeli Arab village of Bart’a, which sits on the border with the West Bank. “We go through powerful experiences together,” says Kabaha, who wears a hijab.

Areen Kabaha

Arye Kohn, another volunteer, earns a living as a technology officer at a Tel Aviv hospital.

Arye Kohn

As Himel points out, Magen David Adom responds to a variety of situations.

During the second Palestinian uprising, from 2000 to 2005, it attended to injured victims of suicide bombings. During last year’s cross-border Gaza war, it was there when it was needed.

When Covid-19 struck in 2020, Magen David Adom responders administered tens of thousands of vaccinations to Jews and Arabs alike.

Clearly, Magen David Adom is a caring, efficient and effective organization, and in Tel Aviv 911, this upbeat message comes shining through.

Israeli medics take a break