January 25, 2018

Loving Our Neighbours

I was recently struck by a headline “Bicycle Responder Who Saved 2,500 people Recognized by Community.” 2,500 people? Did this good news story make it outside of Israel?

Meir Farkash, an EMT volunteer (emergency medical technician), has been to 2,500 calls in the past four years – all on his personal bicycle! Of these calls, 300 have been life threatening. And what is more, this good citizen is only 25 years old!

Because of his incredible dedication, he was just given an electric bike by United Hatzolah.

Meir Farkash
This is heroism. I am sure these emergency calls come at any hour of the night or day, under beating sun or pummelling rain. Whatever he is doing, Farkash puts it aside to pedal and help.

In Judaism, volunteerism is not unusual. It can be traced to the Torah where it says in VaYikra, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself (19:18).” The religion was always designed around volunteerism, with societies set up to assist people from cradle to grave.

As for modern-day Israel, the state was literally built brick by brick and ploughed field by field by volunteers who had a vision. Kibbutzim and moshavim were also founded on the principle of helping others.

Today, this selflessness often starts at a young age with army service and sherut leumi (national service program), then continues for life. Civilians who were once soldiers continue to do miluim, volunteering in their former units once a year (or during a war) until they are 40.

See the video of Israel's Santa by clicking on the link.
Around one third of all Israelis do volunteer work of some sort. One well-known Israeli volunteer is Nichola Abdo, a  Christian Arab who visits children in special education schools and hospitals dressed as Santa. 

I could not find recent statistics, but in 2008 there were some 24,000 volunteer organizations in Israel. This number has grown incredibly; I know of many newer amutot which are reaching out to help those in need.

We can get so easily wrapped up in our own problems and hectic schedules, then forget about helping others. But there is incredible satisfaction when reaching out and making a difference.

The day before Farkash was to receive his award, he saved the life of a prominent lawyer, arriving at the scene within moments and resuscitating the man with CPR. He joined the man in the ambulance and was happy to hear that his patient was released from hospital two days later.

Farkash has now been awarded with a new electric bike, but says, “It’s not about the glory, it’s about helping people."

If you’re ever in Ramat Hasharon, you may spot our hero Meir biking around in his orange Hatzolah jacket on his nifty new ebike.