The gift Ernest and Rose Wachtel’s children gave their parents for their 65th wedding anniversary would have been enough to delight United Hatzalah of Israel, one of the country’s major emergency medical response services: They sponsored a $26,000 ambucycle in their parents’ name.
But there was more to come. The older Wachtels, who live in Hillside and are both Holocaust survivors from Austria, promptly decided to sponsor another ambucycle themselves, in honor of their grandchildren.
The first ambucycle is to be placed wherever the organization chooses; the second will go to Kedumim, a town in the West Bank where the Wachtels have family.
The vehicles, which can weave deftly through congested traffic, are essential equipment in Israel. Operated by medically trained and equipped volunteers — Jewish and Arab Israelis — the Hatzalah ambucycles respond to nearly 193,000 call per year. That's more than 500 calls per day country-wide.
The Wachtels’ three daughters, Cheryl Friedman and Mindy Silverberg of Livingston and Terry Lebewohl of New York City, and their families thought it would be a perfect gift for two people with a deep commitment to Israel.
“We wracked our brains for months trying to think of a gift that would be meaningful for our parents, and then a light bulb went on — an ambucycle,” Friedman said. “Our family has always had a very strong attachment to Israel, and my parents have a very strong affiliation with the country, and what could be more touching and significant?”
Her parents, she said, “were so excited, and the fact that they wanted to do the same thing really validated our choice.”
The children presented the Wachtels with a life-size cardboard replica of an ambucycle at an anniversary party on March 18.
Ernest Wachtel said, “I was so surprised I nearly expired! I decided I had to respond immediately. These ambucycles save lives, and they are going to become more and more important, with the traffic and what’s going on in Israel.”
Eli Beer, who founded and heads UHI, told NJJN the organization is honored by the gift. “It is the generosity of incredible people like the Wachtel family who provide United Hatzalah volunteers with the equipment and support we need to help save thousands of lives everyday in Israel,” he said.
(To learn more about supporting United Hatzalah, visit unitedhatzalah.org. Donors can select from a range of options, including the donation of an ambucycle or providing volunteers with medical equipment, supplies, or training courses.)