Israeli EMS services seek Steel City aid
'The Uber of lifesaving'United Hatzalah of Israel visited Pgh to spread awareness

Israeli EMS services seek Steel City aid

United Hatzalah of Israel, which works to offer on-the-scene medical care in the time before an ambulance can arrive, visited Pittsburgh to spread awareness of their mission.

A volunteer treats an injured man. (Photo courtesy of United Hatzalah of Israel)
A volunteer treats an injured man. (Photo courtesy of United Hatzalah of Israel)

United Hatzalah of Israel, the self-described “Uber of lifesaving,” is seeking support. Cari Immerman, United Hatzalah’s Midwest/Central regional director of leadership giving, and Gavriel Friedson, the organization’s deputy director of international operations, visited Pittsburgh last month to solicit funds and spread awareness of the Israeli medical services group.

The duo’s sell is that United Hatzalah of Israel, at one time regarded as primarily an emergency service geared to the haredi Orthodox community, is the “largest independent, nonprofit, government recognized and fully volunteer emergency medical services organization in Israel.”

Rabbi Elisar Admon, a Pittsburgh-based educator and mohel, attested to the group’s merit.

United Hatzalah is “a very good organization with a lot of different types of volunteers,” yet despite the diversity of first responders there is a commonality in that each “of the volunteers is 100 percent volunteering,” he said. “They’re not doing this for the money. It’s just to save lives.”

While living in Israel, Admon volunteered with the organization for approximately “four to five years,” and although his address has for a while been in Squirrel Hill, whenever he visits Israel “for vacation or any reason they still pull me in. I’m still part of it.”

United Hatzalah volunteers rely upon a “proprietary GPS-based dispatch system,” explained Friedson. “It’s the game changer of EMS.”

Gavriel Friedson is the deputy director of international operations for United Hatzalah of Israel. (Photo courtesy of Gavriel Friedson)
While response times in an ambulance could take 10-15 minutes, United Hatzalah’s ubiquitous motorcycles and other vehicles boast an ability to reach a scene within “just three minutes or less,” or even “90 seconds or less in major cities,” said Immerman.

“The fact that we can get to a patient in less than three minutes, stabilize them and fill that gap until the ambulance arrives is significantly increasing the chance of survival,” said Friedson.

The “Uber-like” model, which the organization touts, is achieved not only through volunteers’ reliance on GPS but also through its fleet of different types of emergency vehicles. Rapid response electric bicycles, 4×4 ambutractors (all-terrain search and rescue vehicles), water rescue unit ambuboats, advanced cardiac and trauma ambulances, as well as ambucycles are all part of the organization’s fleet.

As a volunteer, Admon often drove the latter.

“It was an amazing time,” he said. “First of all, you’re saving a life. You get a smile on your face when you have success.”

In support of the sacrifices of volunteers, several times a year United Hatzalah hosts “special events for families,” said Admon. They were a chance to spread the love among volunteers’ family members, who were often left alone while a United Hatzalah medic would race with little notice to an emergency.

“It felt like one big family,” Admon said of the organization.

Immerman and Friedson are hoping to disseminate that message of kinship, as well as other facts, such as that 30 percent of the organization’s operating budget is provided by Israelis and that 100 percent of all American donations directly support Israeli operations.

What people should know about United Hatzalah is that the volunteers, who represent all walks of Israeli life, are “working together with one target: to save lives as quickly as possible,” said Admon.

Between speed and innovation, we have an ability to “save more lives,” echoed Friedson. “That is what is the key message, and we’re proud of it and we want to share it with the world.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

read more: