History of Hatzolah Darom

Hatzolah Ashdod is Born: The First Year

February-June, 2004


January, 2004; Ashdod, Israel

Srulik, a delightful three-year old boy, drowns in the bathtub. The ambulance races through the streets of Ashdod, but it is quite a long way to Srulik’s house and the ambulance arrives too late. None of the neighbors knows how to perform CPR. The critical window of opportunity in which resuscitation is possible, passes. Little Srulik dies.

Sorele, a ten-month-old baby girl swallows a bead and stops breathing. The ambulance, stuck in traffic, takes twenty minutes to arrive at the scene. Nobody, including the screaming, helpless mother, knows how to administer first aid. The infant doesn’t survive.

Ashdod’s 200,000 residents are concerned. What happened to Srulik and Sorele and others can happen again, G-d forbid. There is currently no hospital in Ashdod, so waiting time for an ambulance can sometimes be twenty minutes or more, a crucial situation in cases of life-threatening injuries or illnesses. It is obvious the city needs a more efficient response system.

Upon Rabbinical recommendation, Rabbi Michael Schwartz creates an Emergency Response Volunteer Unit to work side by side with MDA to train people to perform emergency first aid. Rabbi Schwartz works to procure equipment, recruit qualified volunteers and obtain financial backing. Forty volunteers complete a basic first aid course, are outfitted, equipped and ready to respond.

When a series of terror attacks creates a grave blood shortage, Hatzolah holds a huge blood drive, collecting 200 units of blood, transferring them to Israel’s National Blood Bank. This success prompts a decision to hold similar drives regularly.

December, 2004

Hatzolah Ashdod gets its first 2 motorbikes, known as ambucycles, that can weave through traffic and reach victims almost instantaneously. It’s a lifesaver when a child is hurt in a schoolyard far from the road. By the time the ambulance arrives, the volunteer has begun administering first aid. The child is saved.

The Rescue Work Goes On

February, 2005

Hatzolah Ashdod expands to Nachal Sorek settlements which includes Yesodot, Beit Chilkiah, Yad Binyamin, Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, etc.

June, 2005

Our after-hours clinic in Ashdod is opened and fully staffed with doctors and nurses. The town of Ashdod with over 200,000 residents has no hospital and the distance to nearby cities is very dangerous for critically ill patients or those with serious medical needs.

July, 2005

The largest railroad accident is Israel’s history throws over 200 people from a train in a rural area not shown on maps and without vehicular accessibility. But Hatzolah Ashdod’s volunteers know the area, arrive at the scene on their motorbikes before anyone else and administer first aid. They also direct police, army helicopters and Magen David Adom personnel to the location. Dozens of people are alive and well today due to their intervention.

October, 2005

Hatzolah Ashdod receives its first ambulance.

November, 2005

In response to pressing requests, Hatzolah expands its services to neighboring Ashkelon. A wave of burn incidents prompts Hatzolah Ashdod to distribute first aid kits containing burnshield bandages to its volunteers, preventing countless surgical procedures, and sparing the city’s children pain and disfigurement.

January, 2006

As a result of collaboration between Hatzolah and MDA, Hatzolah Ashdod is asked to expand its services to include the entire Lachish region which comprises dozens of towns and settlements, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Gan Yavne, Bnei Aish, Bnei Darom and Nachal Sorek. The organization’s name is officially changed to Hatzolah Ashdod-Lachish.

April, 2006

The after hours clinic has seen 2572 patients since its founding.

May, 2006

Since much of Ashdod is situated on sand dunes, and volunteers are often called upon to search for missing children, a specialized tractor is purchased to navigate this rough terrain.

Balance of 2006-present

Kassam missile attacks spur expansion of territory and increase in number of volunteers. High-speed highways between Dimona and Eilat are the scene of serious accidents and Hatzolah responds. Continuing tension in the region spurs an increase in the rate of cardiac cases and again, Hatzolah Darom rises to the challenge. The name is changed once more to reflect its scope of service – Hatzolah Darom, with over 400 volunteers, now serves all of Southern Israel, from Ashdod all the way down to Eilat. The directors must now redouble their efforts to recruit, train and equip additional volunteers. High on their list are additional vehicles such as ambucycles to overcome challenges of traffic and terrain to get to victims on time.