Paul Calvert spoke with Christian Friends of Magen David Adom.

Nathalie Blackham and friends
Nathalie Blackham and friends

Magen David Adom is Israel's only Medical Emergency Service and Blood Bank. It is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation. Paul Calvert spoke with Nathalie Blackham, the Executive Director of Christian Friends of Magen David Adom, to find out about the work MDA do and why Christian Friends of Magen David Adom was formed.

Paul: What is Christian Friends of Magen David Adom?

Nathalie: Magen David Adom is the Red Cross of Israel. It's the national emergency services. We are coming alongside them. We are not doing the work of MDA, but we are here to support them and to fundraise from a perspective of being Christian and supporting Israel. We want to help them, to supply ambulances. We are planning to fundraise for an MDA station and also training.

Paul: How did Christian Friends of Magen David Adom start and why?

Nathalie: We started in 2006 during the second Lebanon war. It started in the UK by an amazing man who is 89 years old, who said, "Now I can see we need Christians to come alongside of us as Jewish people." He started to speak with a man in Manchester and a lot of people asked him if he was afraid to do something like this and he said, "No, I can see we need to do something."

Paul: What is your mission?

Supporting The Emergency Services In Israel

Nathalie: Our mission is to show our love in a concrete way. We say it is prayer in action. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but the name in Hebrew is Sha'alu and Sha'alu is like asking a question and querying God. It's like asking what I can do today to help Israel and to help for the peace of Jerusalem. So we are helping by fundraising for ambulances and materials for saving lives.

Paul: What sort of incidents does the Magen David Adom attend to?

Nathalie: Any emergency, having babies, or your kid is playing football and twists his ankle at school, things like that. Unfortunately, sometimes they have to attend to terror attacks too.

Attending terror attacks is quite traumatic. I have a lot of respect for the people who are working here, because you can have post traumatic syndrome afterwards. You have to stay very professional in your way of doing things, so we really say well done for the work they are doing day and night. It's 24 hours a day.

Paul: Is the Magen David Adom the ambulance service in Israel?

Nathalie: Yes it is. They have some others, but it is the national one.

Paul: Are they not funded by the Government, but are they a charity?

Nathalie: Yes they are and 85% of the people are volunteers. The Government only give them between 3% and 4% of their money. Most of the time this money will come if they have terror attacks and if it's connected with the Israeli Defence Force. They will reimburse some money for Magen David Adom.

Paul: Is most of it run on charity donations?

Nathalie: Yes, all the ambulances, the MDA station and all the equipment are donated.

Paul: How many ambulances have you bought as Christian Friends of Magen David Adom?

Supporting The Emergency Services In Israel

Nathalie: We have around 11. When people get connected with Magen David Adom, they feel they want to tell their friends, so now we have ambulances coming from South Africa, Sweden, Finland and the UK of course. They are planning to have some in Australia and in the Philippines too.

Paul: How much does it cost for an ambulance?

Nathalie: For a normal white ambulance, the one that they use every day, it's 85,000$. The more important ambulance, which is for when people have more trauma, it is 125,000$. It is quite costly, but we know that with saving lives, there is no cost for a life. We also have motorbikes, which are 19,000-20,000$. Motorbikes are very good as first responders, because of the traffic in Israel, in the big cities.

Paul: Magen David Adom also collect blood and have blood mobiles out there. How much blood is needed a year?

Nathalie: 300,000 units per year and I think they need 5,000 units per day. They have some special ambulances that are yellow and they go to the people, groups, factories and they go to Zion Square in the streets of Jerusalem. Every day people are giving blood.

Paul: Do Magen David Adom treat anybody whether you are Muslim, Christian, or Jew?

Nathalie: Yes they treat anybody. Also the staff and volunteers of Magen David Adom are Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Whoever wants to come and save lives, they do the training and work together. This is a great opportunity for people to be able to save lives and to see that it is possible to be able to work together.

Paul: What's the youngest and oldest age of volunteers?

Nathalie: This is a very interesting question. The youngest is 15 and the oldest is 89.

Paul: This must be building good relations between Christians and Jews?

Supporting The Emergency Services In Israel

Nathalie: Recently we invited some Christian leaders from Israel and also volunteers from all around the world, about 25 people. We were showing them what Magen David Adom is, because some heard about it and would like to see the reality of it. We went to visit the Dispatch Centre and also the Blood Bank in Tel Hashomer. It was very important for them and they found it fascinating. You should have seen the faces of the Jewish people who work over there, to see that some Christians are interested in helping them.

Paul: How important is your role as Executive Director for Christian Friends of Magen David Adom?

Nathalie: Firstly it was to establish it here in Israel. Norman came, this amazing man I was speaking about, who is the founder in England. He decided to make Aliyah when he was 82 years old. He came here and said, we started CFMDA in the UK, now we want to start it here. He phoned me and my husband and we started to know about Magen David Adom. We were busy, but we said ok, we want to have a try, because we can see the importance of it. I started to help and it's a pleasure to help. I'm learning a lot.

I have the privilege to work with Jewish people, so I am learning who they are, how they think and how they act. Now there are so many visitors who come here, so we have started to do tours. We have conferences and it's really about connection. Someone was coming from the Philippines, who was a friend of a friend and she said, "I want to help", because of the love that she has for Israel. Another friend was from Germany and she had a friend from Australia who said they wanted to help, so she started a group, which is growing. We have someone from the Congo who wants to help and is coming to visit. He wants to help to donate an ambulance.

God really gave me a love for Israel. With my husband we do some programmes with Revelation TV and so we came to Israel for that, but we started to be involved in Magen David Adom. It's a privilege to be able to help Israel. As Christians we have done a lot of damage through anti-Semitism when the Holocaust happened and now it is time to repair and it's time to rebuild and restore.

Paul: What is your prayer for Magen David Adom?

Nathalie: To carry on and to be able to save life. I pray that they won't have so many terror attacks. We are praying for Aliyah. We need more ambulances and staff and training. It's amazing to see young people go to school and give some voluntary time every week. They come here and they help and do training and in the evening after school they come to help. They want to give back to the country. CR

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