While Israel’s national emergency medical and rescue services, Magen David Adom (MDA), has been saving lives in Israel since it was first established in 1930, the Christian fund-raising branch of the organization diversified its outreach during COVID.
Elana Watson, the director of Christian Friends of Magen David Adom (CFMDA), detailed a few of the organization's out-of-the-box projects during an interview with Paul Calvert, a Christian journalist based in the Middle East.
From helping an ailing medical response system in Armenia to raising support for the world’s first subterranean missile-proof blood center, Watson discussed practical ways that Christians can get involved with CFMDA and support their active campaigns.
Founded in 2006, CFMDA has been helping the Israel’s MDA in their efforts to save lives and those in need worldwide, most recently in Ukraine, when they provided over 10 bullet-proof ambulances to assist the country in their war effort against Russia.
In English, Magen David Adom means “Red Shield” or, more literally, “Red Star of David,” the globally recognized symbol of Judaism. CFMDA is a non-profit organization which serves as the fundraising arm for Christians who want to support the MDA and raise awareness of their needs, such as emergency vehicles and blood donations.
MEDI-CYCLES TO ARMENIA
Since the COVID pandemic began, CFMDA staff were not able to travel overseas to meet with Christian communities and raise awareness about MDA and their needs, Watson explained.
So they turned to local Christians to find out what their community needed. Ironically, Armenians in Israel referred the CFMDA to the nation of Armenia.
“During that time, we contacted local Armenians and sat with them to hear their stories and anguish about the war that broke out in 2020 between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” she said. “With Armenia being the cradle of Christianity, a lot of the Armenian Christians were appealing to local Christians here, and different ministries to assist with giving humanitarian aid. And we also had meetings with them to find out what their medical needs were for rescue vehicles and medical supplies.”
It turned out that Armenia's ambulance service is dilapidated, left over from the Soviet-era. Watson explained that Israel’s MDA can really help bridge that gap with first responder vehicles and first responder training.
Watson also stressed the need for “relationship building” between Armenians and Israelis since some Armenian casualties were caused by Israeli weapons.
“We sold drones to Azerbaijan,” Watson shared. “And so, we (CFMDA) are a neutral platform from which to bring together goodwill sent by Jews and Christians from Israel to Armenia in the form of first responder vehicles.”
CFDMA is raising funds this year to send 10 first responder motorcycles – known as medi-cycles – to Armenia. Medi-cycles are able to traverse difficult terrain in rocky regions and disaster zones and can reach some locations even faster than a typical ambulance. When dispatched, a first responder on a medi-cycle often arrives at the scene within three to four minutes and can treat the victim before they are put in the ambulance and taken to the hospital.
“Israel has phenomenal technology where the doctor in the hospital can get live feed of what's going on with the body or the person in the ambulance that they're transporting to the hospital,” she added.
COVID brought out the need to reach out and cross those “sensitive” lines between countries and people, according to Watson, and to “really come together as one – in a unified manner – forsaking any differences in denominational theologies.”
DEDICATING A MEDI-CYCLE IN HONOR OF AMIR KHOURY
CFMDA’s board of directors consists of an equal number of Jews and Christians from all denominations, providing an important bridge in the community with thousands of volunteers from different backgrounds.
“Arabs and Jews and Druze and Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, secular Jews, religious Jews, what have you – all coming together. And it's really brought in an extra sense of – especially during the corona epidemic – serving one's country. And we want people, not just Jewish people, to feel that this is their country,” Watson said, adding that CFMDA wants to reflect this value when choosing a fundraising campaign.
One such campaign involves raising funds to buy a first-responder motorcycle in honor of Sergeant Amir Khoury, a Christian-Arab police officer who lost his life last month while thwarting a terror attack in the ultra-Orthodox community of Bnei Brak.
“They're now since naming a street after him [Khoury] and we would like to dedicate a motorcycle – a first-responder motorcycle – in honor of his memory. And a lot of people know him here and he's celebrated. The name Khoury is very popular amongst the Christian population in Israel,” Watson noted.
A NEW SUBTERRANEAN BLOOD CENTER IN RAMLA
CFMDA is also participating in a larger fundraising campaign for MDA’s recently-inaugurated Marcus National Blood Services Center, a brand new $135 million facility located in the central Israeli city of Ramla. Watson toured the world’s first subterranean missile-proof blood center along with leaders of other “Friends of MDA” societies and called the project “an enormous accomplishment.”
The underground center is able to withstand biological and chemical attacks, as well as earthquakes, and is expected to double Israel’s blood capacity by storing Israel’s strategic inventory of 25,000 blood units. In addition, the facility will house blood bank laboratories, an R&D molecular lab and a 3,200-square-foot blood storage vault that can protect against severe missile threats during times of war.
“They told us that there's about 500,000 units of blood taken each year and it needs to be protected from war, missile attacks and so forth, chemical attacks, what have you. So this is why they put it underground. They also have a mother's milk bank there as well,” Watson said.
Watson explained that the act of donating blood is popular among Israelis, especially during holidays like Passover. CFMDA has been taking blood donations from Christian tourists in Israel for the past five to six years.
“It's just a wonderful way to feel part of the nation and to leave something behind, shall we say,” she added.
Watson said her job gives her a lot of satisfaction because it makes an impact on the lives of many people living in Israel. She shared her prayer for the future work of CFMDA, saying she hopes the organization “will be able to meet more of the needs of the local population and not just receive 1% of Christian efforts here in Israel – and that people will realize that it's not just prayer that we need, it's practical action.”
CFMDA Israel is based in Jerusalem. To learn more about these CFMDA campaigns and how you can donate, click here.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.