Why should I pay for Israel’s ambulance service?

The short answer is – you shouldn’t.

Or at least you shouldn’t pay for it anymore than you would for anything else that should be provided by the state.

But like most things the State provides, private and charitable funding can make a good service, a great service.

OK – but an ambulance service is a basic function of society. We don’t even fund ambulances here in the UK, why should we give to ambulances in Israel?

That’s not entirely accurate. Different countries operate in different ways. The various air ambulance providers in the UK depend upon tens of millions of pounds of charity every year. St. John’s ambulance raises over £100m. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution over £200m! As we said, good services, made great through charity.

Fine. So why don’t the Israelis pay for it? Why do they need us to give too?

Good question. When Israel was established just over seven decades ago, it depended upon global Jewish philanthropy for pretty much everything. Infrastructure, the army and even ElAl were funded by Zionists from across the world.

Therefore it made sense that the ambulance service was too. After all, there was no state, no taxes, no healthcare system. It had to start somewhere…

In fact, Magen David Adom’s existence pre-dated the State by 18 years. So, when Israel was established it inherited a functioning emergency medical service, one that the Knesset mandated in 1950 to be the only, official national provider in Israel. You might have heard of other organisations, such as Hatzalah, that provide a localised first-responder service, but only MDA is completely national. Dial 101 and you get through to MDA – no one else.

Yes, but that was then. Israel’s changed a lot in the past 70 years. They don’t still need our financial support, Do they?
To some extent that’s right. Israel has a thriving economy with many millionaires and billionaires, which is why many of Magen David Adom’s major initiatives, such as the new National Blood & Logistics Centre in Ramla, are delivered as joint capital projects between donors in the UK and USA, together with Israeli philanthropists, who contribute in excess of $1m each year. On top of that, Israelis give their time, 5 million hours a year at no cost whatsoever. More Israelis volunteer for MDA than for any other organisation in Israel. 90% of the workforce are volunteers, and MDA would not be able to save lives without them.
Blood Centre? What’s blood got to do with it?

Magen David Adom is not just a network of ambulances and ambulance stations that cover the length and breadth of Israel. Did you know that MDA is also responsible for collecting and delivering almost every drop of blood in Israel (and 100% of all blood units required by the IDF)? Or all First Aid training? Or that it is the country’s largest volunteer organisation? Or that it provides food parcels to the poor at Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. In fact, Magen David Adom provides services and resources that it simply could not afford to do if it were a government run agency.

Are you telling me that MDA is a better service because it is non-governmental?
Absolutely. Free from the bureaucracy of government, the leadership of MDA is able to focus on saving lives. That’s why, after the IDF, MDA is the second most trusted brand in Israel and a recipient of the highly prestigious Yitzhak Rabin award for national quality and service. Its independence and autonomy means that it can be a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and take its lifesaving experience and expertise to countries around the world, some of which don’t even recognise the State of Israel.
So Magen David Adom is actually providing good PR for Israel?
Great PR. Do you remember the baby in Haiti who was named Israel because he was delivered by an Israeli paramedic? Sadly, Israel has had to develop one of the best emergency response services in the world and that resource is put to good use.
What’s that supposed to mean?
Living under the threat of war, nuclear destruction and ongoing terror requires a medical emergency service that is ready for every eventuality. The challenges of being prepared in Israel, with its neighbours near and far, are very different to those of say the London Ambulance Service.
Are there additional costs as a result?
Yes there are. Lots of them. Bomb-proof stations. Bomb-proof vehicles. Bunkers for the blood supply. All the costs add up, and with 6.1% of the GDP spent on defense (against 1.8% in the UK and 3.1% in the US) you can understand why funding the ambulance service has continued to be something that depends on supporters from around the world.
It sounds like Magen David Adom is more than just an ordinary ambulance service…

That’s true. It’s incomparable to the London Ambulance Service for example. A completely different organisation with different functions and, ultimately, financial pressures. Pressures that come as a result of the neighbours on its borders and the costs involved to save lives on the frontline.

But if that doesn’t convince you, one final thought…

Jewish people and communities have always looked to support Israel and to make Israel the best it can possibly be. Supporting Magen David Adom is a manifestation of this. A donation to MDA is a donation to the ultimate expression of Jewish ideals and values. A public service, in the Jewish State, that saves the lives of Arabs, Christians and Druze, male and female without ever asking about race, religion or gender. A life-saving service that makes Israel an even better country and serves as a beacon of light for Jews across the world.

Magen David Adom needs our support and we enhance our connection to Israel by supporting Magen David Adom.