Posted by: medicblog999 | September 24, 2009

A follow up from the Hatzola

star of david

Right then, to follow up from my recent post about the Gateshead Hatzola team, the member of the Hatzola who I was talking to, emailed me some information about how the Hatzola works and how the role of First Responder can be undertaken on a 24/7 basis from an orthodox Jewish team:

“To clarify the Sabbath and festival restrictions – generally speaking, on the Sabbath (which runs from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday) and on major festivals, we refrain from any creative activity.  That means making something that wasn’t there before – such as a fire (e.g. internal combustion engine), writing, an electric circuit. (We don’t sit in the dark – we use time-switches; we don’t eat cold food – we keep it hot overnight.)  Undoing these things – breaking a circuit, etc. – is also forbidden.  In addition, on the Sabbath, we don’t carry in the street – it’s not the weight, it’s the act of carrying, so not even a tissue.

When it comes to saving lives, all these activities are permitted, so I can answer the phone or radio, drive a car, carry my bag, use a pulse oximeter, etc.  However, once the emergency is over – in this case, when we handed over to you – the normal restrictions apply again.  As it was a festival rather than the Sabbath, I could carry my kit back into my car and my car keys home – it was only switching off the interior lights by closing the car door and setting the alarm which was the problem.  On the Sabbath, I would have had to ask the gentleman who turned up to put my kit back in my car and drop my car keys into my house.

This may all sound extremely complicated, but – apart from the way that exceptions for medical emergencies work – it’s second nature to any Jewish child.  If you’re used to it, it’s totally natural – in fact, what feels strange to me is carrying out normal weekday activities when an emergency arises on the Sabbath”

I have been finding this whole side to my communities emergency response services absolutely fascinating, and I feel privileged to be part of the whole system.

I have also had an email from Jacob, who is a Paramedic working somewhere in the States. He doesnt want me to identify exactly where he is from, but he gives another view of providing emergency care as an orthodox Jew, but this time as a fully registered Paramedic. I will post that one tomorrow so as to complete this little venture of exploring emergency care within religious constraints.



  1. Ben and Mark, that is really interesting, something I know nothing about.
    Ben – I wonder if you could do a guest post with more information about how Hatzola works, I am a volunteer with St John and am genuinely interested in how all voluntary medical services work.


  2. Really good post. I met some of the Hatzolah EMTs back east in New York, and they are really dedicated and fun guys.
    One Hatzolah unit I know of hires Christians, or other non Jewish folks, to act as porters and drive the rig during Sabbath. I guess it works for them.

  3. Excuse me, Mark – but the author of this post is me, not Ben (who is, I think, one of our responders who came along just as we were finishing the call). I’m a Glaswegian Jew, not a Geordie one.

    I’ve spoken about the Jewish community to a variety of healthcare providers and am always pleasantly surprised by the interest shown. It’s not just that people want to avoid offending anyone but also that there is a genuine interest in learning about other cultures. Education is the best way of overcoming prejudice – something that I also work at in my day job.

    It has been a pleasure to meet you and to read your blog, which I am now going to follow avidly.

  4. After service in HM forces, I found myself working full time on front line ambulances. Though I was conflicted when working on the Sabbath, I assauged my feelings of disquiet by qualifying my actions with the thought I was there to save, or protect life.

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