Title: 90 Seconds: The Epic Story of Eli Beer and United Hatzalah
By Rabbi Nachman Seltzer
Mesorah Publications Ltd.
At a visit to Aish HaTorah for a bris, Rav Elazar Shach saw the incredible work that Rabbi Noach Weinberg had done. Rav Shach said that if one man can destroy six million lives, then one man can save six million lives. He was clearly aroused to express this idea by the remarkable feats that Rav Weinberg had already performed. Hitler was not a particularly talented or intelligent person, and yet he was able to do so much harm. Therefore, each of us, no matter how ordinary we consider ourselves, has the potential to do more good than the evil that he perpetrated.
As an organization, it’s just a matter of time until United Hatzalah of Israel will have saved six million lives. Eli Beer is the founder of United Hatzalah, and his extraordinary story is told in 90 Seconds: The Epic Story of Eli Beer and United Hatzalah by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer.
United Hatzalah is a Jerusalem-based volunteer-based emergency medical services (EMS) organization. Its mission is to provide immediate medical intervention during the critical window between the onset of an emergency and the arrival of traditional ambulance assistance.
Founded in 2006, it has become the largest independent, non-profit, fully volunteer EMS organization in the world, with over 6,200 volunteer medical first responders nationwide and additional chapters in Panama, United States, and Ukraine. But the most fantastic fact about United Hatzalah is that they have an astounding average response time of less than 3 minutes nationwide and 90 seconds in metropolitan areas.
In this most engaging book, Seltzer details Beer’s story from a young yeshiva student in Jerusalem who witnessed a bus bombing, to the founder of one of the most effective EMS organizations in the world.
The book is an honest and revealing account of Beer’s life. With all of the success (and lives saved) that Beer achieved, his trajectory in life was never one of certainty. The book details an underlying tension that Beer had to face growing up. Rav Asher Weiss observed that Israel’s charedi society lacks a working class that thrives like in the United States. In the United States, one can be a charedi and a partner in a law firm, hospital chief of staff, and the like. That reality doesn’t exist in Israel.
For Beer, who would never succeed in a traditional charedi trajectory, the fact that he hadn’t succeeded in yeshiva learning like his three brothers only exacerbated things. Seeing himself as the black sheep of the family, he could have easily fallen into the abyss of the many charedi kids who leave observance due to not fitting into the very narrow system, and not finding a place for themselves.
This is a unique book where Seltzer writes of Beer’s many successes and failures. One particular failure was when he asked a very generous donor to increase his already significant donation. The donor felt that Beer had seriously overstepped things and told him never to contact him again.
Beer saw that what he did was wrong on every level, and there was no way to justify his irrational exuberance in pursuing a donation. He wrote an apology to the donor, a brutally honest mea culpa. The donor forgave him because Beer was in it for United Hatzalah only.
I was in Jerusalem in March and got a tour of the United Hatzalah office and command center. It’s a remarkable facility. It has a world-class operation with state-of-the-art technology and notification systems that rival command centers of large metropolitan cities.
Eli Beer’s story is not that of one born into greatness or deep familial connections. His story is that of a man with laser focus, commitment, and sheer will. And with those qualities, how they can achieve the impossible. And it’s one of the most inspiring stories you can ever read.