After decades of experience with terrorism, Israel is an expert in the field of emergency response and trauma care. And the success of Israel’s strategies proves that the country could be a partner to Chicago as it combats the trauma and aftermath of gun violence.
One example of Israel’s innovative thinking has been the creation of an app that speeds up emergency care. As soon as someone’s life is in danger, Israel now has a way to reach him or her instantly. The app, called NowForce, is the “Uber” of emergency medical response and has revolutionized the field.
This app was created by an Israeli nonprofit organization, United Hatzalah (Hebrew for “rescue”). The more than 2,000 medically trained volunteers registered to NowForce and on call around the clock have to meet just one criterion: They need to be willing to save anyone’s life, anytime, anywhere. As soon as a call comes in, skilled volunteers closest to the incident are notified, making United Hatzalah’s average response time less than three minutes. Imagine the lives that have been saved with this response rate. Imagine that lives that could be saved, not just in Israel, but in Chicago, with such a response platform.
But the impact of a terror attack or gunshot does not end within days of such an event; rather it lingers for years, and sometimes even for a lifetime. Victims and their families are too often confronted with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another example of a successful Israeli strategy is already being implemented in Chicago, by Chris Harris, pastor of Bronzeville’s Bright Star Church of God In Christ. When Harris, who is also the CEO of Bright Star Community Outreach, was in Israel several years ago he visited the nonprofit organization NATAL, which is the Israeli Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War. While there, he saw an approach to helping victims reduce their chances of developing post traumatic stress disorder that he believed could be used in Bronzeville. The Israeli model has advanced the resiliency of Israeli society through treatment, prevention, public awareness and research.
It doesn’t matter whether a bullet hits a person because of a terrorist attack or because of gang violence. Trauma from any gunshot — for the victim as well as the family and surrounding community — is often the same. Knowing this, Harris worked with NATAL to customize a program for victims in Chicago. Representatives from NATAL have made frequent visits to Chicago to help train area faith and community leaders and to help develop a hotline so that victims and their families can speak with trained care providers. In addition, University of Chicago Medicine, Northwestern Medicine and Mount Sinai Hospital have all played a role in Harris’ initiative to offer support to victims of violence.
Israel’s innovative solutions are already proving helpful in fighting Chicago’s challenges with gun violence — but more can be done. We encourage others to replicate our Israeli programs.
Aviv Ezra is consul general of Israel to the Midwest.