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May 8, 2008

Mehadrin Hatzalah, soon to be more Mehadrin

Many years ago, when we first moved to Bet Shemesh, there was a big problem in the neighborhood. RBS was brand new and had no local branch of MDA or Hatzalah. When a person needed emergency medical care, he would have to call MDA. MDA would then send the ambulance from Bet Shemesh.

The problem was threefold:
  1. The fact that the drivers had to come from BS meant a minimum delay of care for at least a minimum of 7 minutes that it minimally takes to get from BS to RBS, if not more.
  2. The ambulance drivers, as was true of most people in BS at the time, were not familiar with the streets of RBS. They had to drive around and hope to find somebody who could give them directions to the location of the call.
  3. For about the first two years RBS was being populated, the City did not put up street signs. This enhanced the problems above, as it made it even more difficult for the drivers, already unfamiliar with the streets, to find their destination.
My wife decided during that period of time, that she would volunteer for MDA and be a local RBS EMT so when calls went out for RBS, she would at least be able to get the drivers there quicker, along with being available locally. She took the course and volunteered many hours and nights going out on ambulance shifts.

Eventually, Hatzalah opened a local RBS branch. When my wife approached them about volunteering for them, they would not accept her because they have a policy of no women volunteers.

The policy was upsetting. We understood the policy, as men might be uncomfortable being treated by a woman. Also, uncomfortable, and halachically problematic, situations might come up in the ambulance while on duty. But on the other hand, do only men call hatzalah? If it is uncomfortable for a male patient to be treated by a female volunteer, what about a female patient being treated by a male volunteer? And shouldn't the pikuach nefesh aspect of it override any such problem?

But that is the way it was.

It seems that an all-male Hatzalah is no longer good enough. Te Skverer Rebbe has now called for the establishment of an all-female Hatzalah to work alongside the all-male hatzalah.

The article below is where the Skverer Rebbe makes the suggestion. The article is in Yiddish, and my Yiddish is weak, so I only picked up bits and pieces of it, but someone explained to me generally speaking what is in the article. I am posting the pdf of the article so anybody who understands the Yiddish can read it for themselves.

Read this doc on Scribd: Skvere Hatzalah

I do not understand the call for a separate all-female Hatzalah. It seems completely out of place.

Imagine the scenario - someone calls Hatzalah for help. The dispatcher asks if the patient is male or female. The caller says female, so they dispatch the call to the female Hatzalah.

Then what?

These women, mothers of children, possibly nursing or pregnant - are they going to be carrying heavy equipment? Are they going to be able to lift a stretcher with a heavy patient?

Are they going to be able to drop their families, their kids, a nursing baby, and go out for a few hours to treat someone, take them to the hospital, etc.? Does that mean the Haredi public (especially the Rabbinate) will now make it acceptable for women to drive - so they can drive ambulances?

And what happens if someone calls and says the patient is a female, the female team gets there and finds the patient is a man (let's say the caller got confused, or even did it maliciously). What will they do -refuse to treat the patient and call for the male team to be sent out?

It does not seem like this newer, more mehadrin version of Hatzalah is something that is realistic.


  1. Not to mention the question of what if a wrong-gendered unit is closer to the emergency. If a female unit is on the block and the nearest male unit is across town, will they still call the male unit to the emergency if the patient is male?

    What next? The call that doctors can only treat patients of their own gender?

    The Wolf

  2. Rafi G: Whats the gemara's definition of a chossid shoteh?

  3. Wolf - in some places (in some medical clinics in Israel), that already happens. They have a few mehadrin branches, with separate mens and womens hours. They try (I do not know if they do it successfully 100%) to have doctors by gender as well.

  4. Jameel - a woman drowning and the guy refuses to save her.

    But to argue the other side, that is a situation where he is chossid shoteh because the situation ha already arisen. That does not mean you cannot set up a system where women will be available to treat women and men men. Maybe Lechatchila, according to the Skverer Rebbe's logic, it is better to do it like this in advance.

    Now to your point, if so, why does Hatzalah (at least in most branches) not accept female volunteers? Isn't it the same chossid shoteh?

  5. Hmmm, we allow "chillul shabbat" because of hatzalat nfashot but will dispatch based on sex rather than highest percentage chance of saving a life. Glad that these decisions are made above my pay grade.

    Joel Rich

  6. Im not really sure what the problem is. of course if its a pikuach nefesh issue, we try to do anythign we can to save the life. The question is what if there are 2 equal options. SHould we try to accomodate mens needs by men and womens needs by women? I think so!!

    What happened until now? I would imagine that the feeling was that we would not be able to get full womens teams, which would lead to mixed teams - which is assur. Now the rebbe feels that they would be able to field fullyfemale teams, so he is asvising it.

    Seriously.... a little common sense people!! Just because he is a chassid doesnt mean he doesnt think. If RYBS thought of this option, I dont think you would be making fun of it. You would try to understand it. And in this case its really not that hard to think of a viable possiblity

  7. anon - first of all, I have never had any connection to RYBS and, while I hold him in great respect as I do all rabbonim, I would likely treat such a suggestion by him the same way as I would if it was suggested by anybody else.

    second, All I said int he post was that it seems not very realistic, as it has many potential problems and situations that will be problematic, that will render it practically useless.
    I did not make fun of it, and in an earlier comment I even explained why i think the Rebbe would think it is beneficial and necessary, and why lechatchila it might even be a good idea. But I still think it is not realistic.

  8. The Rebbe seems divorced from reality.

  9. ACTUALLY RAFI, IF THE SITUATION IS PIKUACH NEFESH, and even though it's only a second, but the extra secoind of asking "male or female" could be adding to sakana.

  10. Just to reinforce the point:

    Fire Dept. to Send Units First, Save the Questions for Later
    Published: May 7, 2008
    A pilot program for Fire Department dispatchers in Queens was so successful in improving response times that it will be extended across the city next month, the department said on Tuesday.

    Under the program, which started on Feb. 14, dispatchers were trained to spend less time on the phone confirming the location and nature of the emergency in order to expedite getting units to the scene.

    Joel Rich

  11. To all those who have criticized the plan, how many have read the plan itself (in Yiddish) and understood it, or have read a full translation (no offense to Rafi's synopsis)?

    I don't read Yiddish, so I can't comment. However, from the length of it, it seems to be more than just "let's have two parallel system, one for boys and one for girls". Perhaps the obvious concerns are addressed.


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