Magen David Adom Director-General Eli Bin told Israel Radio today, 6 Tammuz 5772, that the organization has formed a vaad rabbonim to address halachic issues that arise. Bin explained the committee will act in an advisory capacity, to provide a response to issues that impact the shomer shabbos volunteers and employees, adding that other emergency agencies have similar rabbinical bodies to address the very same halachic matters.
Israel Radio: Aren’t you afraid this will lead to gender segregation? Won’t this result in problems regarding ambulances responding to non-emergency calls on shabbos? How can you permit discrimination against women in this organization, such as separate quarters?
BIN: First of all, there will be no such thing. There is no gender discrimination in MDA today and there will not be in the future. Regarding quarters, there are already separate quarters for males and females. There is nothing new here. This is not the committee’s mandate. With all due respect to the rabbis, this will not be their job. The rabbi heading the committee, Tzfas Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is not chareidi.
Israel Radio: Do you see the establishment of the committee as capitulating to chareidim?
BIN: Absolutely not – it is an effort to accommodate the needs of the shomer shabbos volunteers and employees regarding halachic issues that arise, nothing more. MDA is simply trying to do the correct thing. There is and will always be freedom of worship in MDA.
Israel Radio: What about ambulance responses on shabbos for example regarding non life threatening calls?
Bin: Like I said, nothing is going to change. The committee will not have any authority regarding medical issues. The rabbis will recommend how to address halachic issues and that will be the extent of the scope of their authority, nothing more.
MDA operates 24/7/365, on shabbos and Yom Kippur, serving the entire country, and nothing is going to change here.
Gilad Kariv, a clergyman affiliated with Israel’s Reform Movement spoke with Israel Radio to share his concerns regarding the establishment of the committee and the selection of Rabbi Eliyahu to serve as the chair.
There is nothing wrong with an organization like MDA seeking to meet the needs of the Orthodox members. The question is just what will the scope of the committee be, and if the rabbis will be advisory or will they make decisions and change the status quo. The fact that this was released to the media already hints at an unwelcome situation. We hope to turn to MDA and request an official response regarding the new rabbinical committee. We only know what appeared in the media, and based on this the situation is most worrisome to us. We call on all listeners to report any problems regarding ambulance responses on shabbos to us.
We are troubled by the selection of Rabbi Eliyahu of Tzfas to head the committee. This is a man facing a criminal case for violating the laws prohibiting incitement for his call not to sell or rent homes to Arabs in Tzfas. This is not the type of person we feel should be placed at the helm of a MDA committee.
Despite his apologies and clarifications, we do not believe that a rabbi who uses the internet to publish his views, that one should not say hello to an Arab or sell him tomatoes should head a committee of an organization that is compelled to serve all citizens. Permit me to remind you that 20% of the population served by MDA is comprised of Arabs, the very same population Rabbi Eliyahu opposes and I question the wisdom of the decision to appoint such a controversial person to the post.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)