Israelis are known for coming to the rescue in emergencies and thousands of volunteer mechanics are carrying on this tradition on Israel’s roadways.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
Got a flat? Ran out of gas? The Israeli non-profit Yedidim (Friends) is on its way – at no charge. The organization has 20,000 volunteers throughout Israel on call 24/6. (Volunteers do not work on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.)
With Yedidim dispatchers fielding an average of 18,000 calls for help a week, praise and stories of the organization abound.
Suzi Zettel told United with Israel (UWI) that the kindness of Yedidim is “literally unparalleled and a lifesaver.” Zettel had gone to meet her 93-year-old father at the Kiryat Gat train station in southern Israel. When placing her father’s walker in the car trunk, she inadvertently dropped her car keys in the trunk.
“My car was totally locked and now my keys were trapped in the trunk,” she said. “People, including a bunch of soldiers, tried to help us but were unsuccessful. My insurance company said they would charge to come and help. But they gave me the number of Yedidim. I expected to wait for a volunteer for three hours but someone came within five minutes. He had a massive selection of tools and spent a good 10-15 minutes finding the right one to get us into the car. He was so pleasant and really worked hard, never expecting one cent in return.”
Yedidim, founded in 2006 by Meir Weiner, was originally established to help drivers attacked by Arab stone throwers on Highway 443 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Today, the organization has expanded to helping most non-medical emergencies. This can include everything from rescuing babies locked in cars, changing flat tires, bringing urgently needed medicine to a person stuck in traffic or doing small home repairs for the elderly or poor.
Volunteers come to the rescue day and night, rain or shine. “I was running a workshop and the teacher called to say he had a flat tire and would be late,” Bati Katz Koplon told UWI. “We called Yedidim. Even though it was raining, they came right away. The teacher left the volunteer to change his tire, taught his class and returned to his fixed car for a safe ride home. They made everything seem effortless.”
Anyone who wants to become a volunteer is accepted. This includes children, teens, women, men, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze. “If they live in Israel, they can volunteer,” Jonathan Bishansky, Tel Aviv branch manager for Yedidim, recently told The Jerusalem Post. “My kids come and assist me. We have couples who met during volunteering and couples who go out on calls together. People with handicaps volunteer, women manage teams and I even have a 65-year-old volunteer in Tel Aviv who does everything.”
Bishansky shared that a Muslim volunteer recently assisted an Orthodox Jewish family from Bnei Brak. “I drove all the way to you because I know Shabbat is in one hour,” the volunteer told the family.
It seems clear that everyone in Israel should have Yedidim’s number in their phone: 053-313-1310. Its operators speak Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian.
“This is Israel,” Bishansky told the Post. “We will help each other. Everybody is helping one another. Politics, dress, none of that matters. This separates us from the rest of the world. The ‘thank you’ at the end is worth everything.”
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