On Monday 2 May, President Isaac Herzog opened Magen David Adom’s Marcus National Blood Services Centre. The 48,000 square-metre facility is the world’s most secure national blood bank.

Ensuring a life-saving supply of blood in all emergencies, the Centre can withstand a direct ballistic missile attack, biological and chemical weapons, earthquakes, and cyber-terrorism. It will allow Magen David Adom – Israel’s only National Blood and Medical Emergency Service – to process double the 270,000 units of blood per year that they can currently.

The state-of-the-art facility, located in the city of Ramla, has been built over five years at a cost of £90 million, funded by a three-way partnership between Magen David Adom UK, American Friends of MDA and the Government of Israel.

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The Marcus National Blood Services Centre, five years in the making.

The Centre is the world’s first blood bank to be designed specifically with the goal of protecting Israel’s blood supply in the face of rapid population growth, the ongoing threat of terrorism and the increasingly complex risks of cyber-attack. The non-combustible steel and concrete building has six stories, three of them underground.

With the vault on the lowest level, the second underground floor houses the Cord Blood Inventory, an R&D molecular lab and a chemical and biological warfare air-filtration system that enables all staff throughout the building to continue working and processing blood in the event of a chemical or biological attack. The first (uppermost) underground floor houses shielded blood bank laboratories, a transportation centre and secure fleet parking, where all new ambulances will be equipped.

To ensure the highest levels of protection, and continuity of operations in war scenarios, every critical system has a secondary system, including two ramps leading into the underground floors, four sets of elevators and four generators.

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One of the underground floors in the new highly-protected Blood Centre

The Centre was built to replace the old facility in Ramat Gan, which dates back to the 1980s and was judged no longer sufficient for the demands of Israel’s growing population. It is named in honour of Bernie Marcus, the founder of American home improvement chain Home Depot, and his wife Billi.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony, President Herzog said: “Here, in this important, precious blood bank, we feel the essence of human co-dependence. It teaches us that we are brothers and sisters, even if we argue and disagree — but blood donations must be above any disagreement.”

Also there was Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who said: “During the operations and wars over the years, MDA has had to stop processing blood and move the country’s blood services into bomb shelters.

“This actually interrupted blood production when it was most urgent for both civilians and soldiers alike.”

Daniel Burger, Chief Executive of MDA UK, said: “We’re really thrilled to be able to help such an intrinsically important part of Israeli society. As well as generously funding a number of rooms and areas, MDA UK supporters contributed over 80 mezuzot, each of which has been affixed to a door frame within the Centre. I immediately recognised one in the entrance of the building, sponsored by our Christian friends CFMDA, and another designed by Mohammed, an Israeli-Arab art student. Seeing this was a true reminder of the diversity of those involved across Magen David Adom.

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Bezalel college art student Mohammed next to the mezuzah he designed for MDA UK chairman Russell Jacobs’ lobby, Director General Eli Bin’s and Professor Eilat Shinar’s offices. 

Sadly these events were marred by news of the devastating terror attack that took place in Elad on Thursday evening, in which three people died. MDA supplied 23 units of blood to five victims who are currently in critical condition, a stark reminder of the Centre’s reason for being and its potential to save thousands of lives. This is exactly why we continued support for the blood services of Israel.”