American GIs Donate Blood and Bond with Israel

September 12, 2014

5 min read

It’s always a distinct pleasure and extraordinary opportunity to arrange for bringing Americans to donate blood in Israel.  It never gets old, and is never an experience to take for granted.  Israel is the only country in the world to which people travel – whether on a vacation, tour, or religious pilgrimage – and make it a point to donate blood.

As special as all these experiences are, some are especially outstanding.  This week was one of those.

In partnership with Heroes to Heroes, Heart to Heart was able to bring US military veterans to donate blood.  Their 10 day whirlwind tour is designed to connect them with Israel, with Israeli military veterans as well, as an opportunity for emotional and spiritual healing.  After seeing the land, connecting with the people, and connecting with current and retired Israeli soldiers, visiting some who were wounded in recent fighting, the need to give back became clear.  Giving their blood to help save Israeli lives was the answer. As Juan V. noted, “It’s a way of giving life.  It’s a pleasure for me to contribute to save lives of Israeli citizens.”

Anthony W. related especially to visiting the Golan where some of the biggest and most bloody battles that Israel has fought have taken place, and current threats are imminent.  All the dots connected very clearly for him. “Being a soldier, I can help another soldier (fighting) for this country. From one soldier to another I want to give back.  We’re fighting the same enemy and I want to be able to help.”

Isaac C. observed, that on his trip he “saw there’s really a necessity to donate.  It’s a wonderful thing to give to help people who really need it.”  Donating the week of the anniversary of September 11 gave him a special reflection, that it gave him “a feeling of hope, unity and caring.  Israel and the US have a special bond of friendship.”

While it’s not unusual to see Americans donating blood in Israel, it’s also not something that’s an everyday occurrence or that every Israeli knows about.  Earlier this year, a pastor’s leadership group donated blood in an atmosphere that was described as euphoric.  Tears were shed by frequent donors donating blood in Jerusalem, others donating blood for the first time, by some who were ineligible to donate, and even by the Israeli tour guide who was awestruck at what was going on – American Christians coming to share their blood with Israel.

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So when a group of people who are clearly not Israeli walked into the Israel national blood center to donate blood, it became an attraction to the staff, and to the Israeli donors.  Three young women were thrilled to hear who they were and why they chose to donate blood in Israel.  One of these women was just about to begin her military service in an officer’s program, and shared with the American veterans what she was looking forward to, and they shared their experiences with her.

One man, Udi, took photos of the American veterans and was visibly overwhelmed by it all, but this was just a start.  He went home and shared the experience on his Hebrew blog, for Israelis to see and read about how awesome an experience it really was.

“Today as I came to donate blood, as I do every few months, I met a group of people that moved me deeply. A group of American Jews and non-Jews. They were sitting at the entrance to the blood donor room and filling out forms with the help of the group’s organizer, an American Jew living in Israel named Jonathan Feldstein.”

American GI's visiting Israel with Heroes to Heroes donating blood with Heart to Heart. (Photo: Heart to Heart)
American GI’s visiting Israel with Heroes to Heroes donating blood with Heart to Heart. (Photo: Heart to Heart)

“I asked what they were doing in Israel.  They answered that they are part of an organization working with Heart to Heart. They came to Israel for a tour and to contribute to the country following Operation Protective Edge, touring for 10 days, and decided due to the Operation, they will donate blood. Most of them came to Israel for the first time; all were former soldiers in the American army.”

“In my conversation with them I told them I salute them and appreciate what they are doing, and their answer was that it was their pleasure, and this is their country! Or as they said in their own language: This is our homeland! Do you understand? Americans see their native land in our country.”

“I can only thank them again and hope that we Israelis can learn from this the importance of blood donations to the MDA blood bank, especially now that the holidays are approaching. Take this as an example for yourself, find a free hour, and go fill up the blood bank reserves.”

American GI's visiting Israel with Heroes to Heroes donating blood with Heart to Heart. (Photo: Heart to Heart)
American GI’s visiting Israel with Heroes to Heroes donating blood with Heart to Heart. (Photo: Heart to Heart)

In a recent interview I was asked what the actual impact of a few or even several thousand Americans donating blood is in Israel.  In fact, several thousand donors (so far) out of hundreds of thousands needed, is a figurative drop in the blood bag.   However, often these donations come at a time that Israelis are on vacation so tourists’ participating does make a difference.  And then I addressed the emotional impact.  It’s true, not all or even most Israelis know that so many Americans with a heart for Israel care that much to make donating their blood in Israel a priority.  I shared how it’s really my pleasure to let other Israelis know that this is happening, and why. Unique groups like this one from Heroes to Heroes stand out.  Israelis who meet Americans willing to share their blood may leave the blood donation with one less pint of blood, but a smile and feeling inside that is tremendous.

Usually, regarding things relating to blood it’s not good to be viral. However, regarding the responses from the Israeli staff and donors to witnessing this group of American veterans, and then that being published on a Hebrew blog, Facebook and Twitter, viral is good. Making this good viral even better, people who are not in Israel or can’t donate blood here in person, can participate and help save lives through Heart to Heart’s virtual blood donation program.

Please like and share, and make this go viral so that Israel always has a safe, plentiful and uninterrupted blood supply.

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