On December 1, 2019, the Rimel family was devastated when an Arab driver hit their car at high speed on Highway 443 near Givat Ze’ev, killing Tzipi Rimel and her three-week-old daughter Noam. The accident left the father, Ephraim Rimel, crippled, and his son, Etai, in a coma in critical condition. Ephraim and Etai were treated at the scene by United Hatzalah volunteers and later transported to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem.
Etai recovered slowly and required numerous surgeries to repair the damage to his body. He lost his left leg from the knee down. Like his father, Etai now requires a wheelchair to get around. Six months after the horrific accident, Etai, who was 12 at the time, was released from the hospital and continues intense rehabilitation therapy at Alyn Hospital.
In November 2020, after persevering through his operations and arduous rehabilitative efforts, Etai not only celebrated his Bar Mitzvah but, to everyone’s great surprise, read from the Torah. The Bar Mitzvah was held on the same day as the memorial service for Tzipi and Noam.
For his bar mitzvah gift, Etai’s cousins Yaakov and Sari Sheinfeld and their family donated an emergency ambucycle to United Hatzalah in Etai’s honor. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the dedication ceremony for the ambucycle was delayed until this past Sunday. The Sheinfelds, who live in Teaneck, New Jersey, were unable to attend in person, but Etai’s Israeli family was present, including his grandfather Yogi Rimel who is himself a United Hatzalah volunteer in Beit Shemesh.
Sari Sheinfeld said, “We wanted to recognize the role that first responders play and how critical a difference a few minutes make. There was no better way to recognize this miracle, that we were able to celebrate Etai’s Bar Mitzvah than to contribute so that others may also benefit.”
Etai’s father Ephraim spoke about the dedication and how grateful he is to be part of the event. “It’s a great experience for us to be here. Only a year ago we were in need of help from United Hatzalah volunteers and now we are part of an event that gives back,” he said. “This [ambucycle] will help United Hatzalah do more good and save more lives, and it’s terrific to be a part of that. Of the many presents that Etai got for his Bar Mitzvah, this one will likely last the longest and make the biggest impact. An opportunity to do good in the world, not only for one’s own sake but for the good of everyone else is terrific to be a part of.”
The dedication took place at United Hatzalah’s Headquarters in Jerusalem last Sunday afternoon with CEO Eli Pollack, Chairman Moshe Teitelbaum, and Vice President Dov Maisel. President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer couldn’t attend because he is in the US, but he sent a special video message to Etai and his family in honor of the joyous occasion.
Eli Almoznino, a volunteer who also lost the lower part of his leg in a motor vehicle accident, told Etai at the ceremony: “You must always keep going forward. You can do anything you set your mind to. Look at me. I am missing my leg and I decided that this cannot hold me back but instead I use it to do good. I am a first responder, I play basketball and soccer on a weekly basis, and I don’t allow my injury to hold me back. It’s a part of who I am now. I consider the accident the beginning of the new me, my new birthday.”
In addition to being a first responder and dispatcher for United Hatzalah, Almoznino heads the organization’s Missing Person’s Search and Rescue Unit and in this capacity goes all over the country to assist the police in organizing and leading United Hatzalah volunteers in search for missing persons.
Etai’s grandfather, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yogi Rimel said: “The night of the accident, people from the organization came and stayed with us. The ambulance crew and volunteers who helped Etai came back to visit him numerous times. Members of the group’s administration sat with us and made sure we had everything we needed, and whatever had to be done was done. United Hatzalah is not only about getting to the scene and helping others as fast as possible, it is also about helping its own volunteers with everything they need, during their darkest hours. It’s what being a family means.”