Top Israeli medical services trade blows as court orders compensation

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Top Israeli medical services trade blows as court orders compensation

Magen David Adom awarded compensation in claim against United Hatzalah — as both sides clash over the correct emergency services hotline

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Rival organisations: ambulances operated by United Hatzalah (left) and Magen David Adom (Photos: United Hatzalah & MDA)
Rival organisations: ambulances operated by United Hatzalah (left) and Magen David Adom (Photos: United Hatzalah & MDA)

One of Israel’s top medical charities has been ordered to pay thousands in compensation for defaming Magen David Adom, the country’s emergency response service.

United Hatzalah was ordered to pay 250,000 shekels (£55,000) after a court found three of its officials had defamed MDA in public remarks and the media.

MDA said the ruling had been “just and necessary”.

But Hatzalah said the judge had reduced the penalty to one-tenth of the 2.6 million shekels originally sought, and awarded it compensation separately for statements made about it by MDA.

Both organisations provide an emergency response service within Israel but have clashed in recent years — including over the telephone number that Israelis should use to call an ambulance.

The heads of both organisations suggested after last week’s ruling that they hoped to move on.

Eli Bin, Magen David Adom’s director-general, said: “We are so sorry we had to go to court, but we were not able to bear the damage to the good name of Magen David Adom and the good name of thousands of our employees and our volunteers who work day and night to save lives.”

United Hatzalah’s president Eli Beer said: “We are saddened that public money that is intended to save lives is being needlessly wasted in legal proceedings.”

MDA has long criticised Hatzalah for promoting its 1221 phone number instead of 101, the official medical emergency number used in Israel.

In July officials rejected a bid by Magen David Adom to shut down United Hatzalah’s 1221 emergency phone number.

Beer said after that decision that MDA had to “learn that there is no monopoly on lifesaving”.

But critics say the existence of separate hotlines for emergency medical response within Israel could put lives at risk.

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