More than 400 people attended the annual dinner of the Israeli emergency medical service NGO United Hatzalah, held on the evening of Oct. 12 at the Hôtel du Collectionneur in Paris. In total, 5 million euros ($5.3 million) were raised during the dinner to support the work of the organization’s first response volunteers.
The event came against the backdrop of the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, sparked by the massacres carried out by Hamas operatives on Oct. 7.
Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, moved the guests by recounting how the organization’s volunteers mobilized within 20 minutes of the attack and were among the first on the front lines to deal with the wounded. He spoke about the field hospital that was quickly set up by United Hatzalah doctors and paramedics, and how the injured were transported by helicopter and ambulance to various hospitals.
Beer made specific mention of the bravery of various volunteers who put themselves in harm’s way to save lives. One was Haim Sassi, a local rabbi in Sderot who volunteers as an EMT and was badly injured by a Hamas sniper who had taken refuge in the Sderot police station during an attempt to rescue a seriously injured police officer. Another was Shalom Avitan, who did not hesitate to rush into danger in Kfar Aza and recover twin 10-month-old infants, whose parents had been killed by the terrorists, from the hands of Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
In total, more than 2,500 doctors, paramedics and EMTs from United Hatzalah have been active in the war effort, using 375 emergency vehicles that have been dispatched to the south and north of the country. In the first days of the conflict, more than 3,800 people were treated, including 800 who were transported to hospitals by United Hatzalah volunteers.
The NGO drew heavily on its reserves during the first days of the conflict. The funds raised during the dinner will be used to help it restock its medical equipment and protective gear so that first responders can continue their mission during the war.
“We are very grateful to the French public, who responded in a tremendous way to our call for donations since October 7th, in order to equip our volunteers who are putting their own lives at risk every day on the ground,” said Samuel Arrouas, director of United Hatzalah of France. “Many of our donors had spent the afternoon at the large demonstration against anti-Semitism that was held in Paris, but they still found the strength to join us, and share their goodwill and generosity. I want to thank each and every one of the people who came to the event in support of our work to save lives. Thanks to you, our volunteers will be able to continue their holy work and save lives in Israel, regardless of race, religion or nationality.”
“It is very moving for me to see the very strong bond that unites the French public with Israel,” emphasized Beer. “This is a bond manifested in particular through the growing support for our volunteers. This evening is historic; more than 400 people came out to support us and answered the call to partner with us in our mission to save as many lives as possible. In the face of the unspeakable tragedy that struck us on October 7th, only by standing together and performing acts of loving kindness can we emerge victorious. I thank the French community members who came tonight for their unwavering support for Israel and for becoming members of the United Hatzalah family.”