Hatzolah, the Haredi division of Magen David Adom, is in an uproar. A group of senior members left angrily, established a competing organization, and submitted a series of affidavits to the rabbinical court accusing chairman David Greenwald of corruption.
iding on red motorcycles with the inscription "Hatzolah" (Rescue), they arrive at almost every accident, terror attack or incident involving casualties that takes place in Israel. Most of them are bearded, wear black skullcaps, and carry a first aid kit in one hand and a MIRS communications device in the other. Anyone looking on from the sidelines at a Haredi Hatzolah volunteer taking care of an injured person lying on the road certainly would not imagine that this volunteer comes from an organization with an annual budget of millions of shekels, which recently split because of mutual accusations of serious corruption.
Until about half a year ago, the organization, the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) volunteer division of Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency medical services, seemed to be running smoothly. But then Rabbi Moshe Halberstam, president of Hatzolah, passed away. His death was the signal for an unprecedented struggle whose climax came about a month ago with the decision of a group of activists and volunteers to break away and establish a new organization with exactly the same purpose. This new group, called Ihud Hatzolah, has already succeeded in attracting several hundred volunteers from the old organization. But the Pandora's box opened by the secessionists is liable to harm them at least as much as it harms the original organization.
The main purpose of Hatzolah is to streamline the initial handling of injured persons, until an ambulance arrives. At its peak, the organization, founded in 1991 as Hatzolah-Jerusalem, included about 1,000 volunteers from all over the country. When it expanded, it was named Hatzolah-Israel. In recent years it has been headed by David (Duki) Greenwald, 37, of Jerusalem. The Hatzolah volunteers, all of whom are first trained by MDA, are equipped with beepers and MIRS devices, which are constantly sounding off. A senior MDA volunteer: "If you look at it from a Haredi point of view, it's a serious tumult, a lot of noise that puts on a show in their community. If it begins to beep and make noise in the middle of the evening prayer, that means noise and a happening. The Haredi community has a tremendous need for action."
The second Lebanon war was the breaking point for many Hatzolah members. In spite of years of collecting donations abroad and gala evenings moderated by popular entertainer Dudu Topaz, at the moment of truth volunteers in the North complained of an equipment shortage. The anger led many of the heads of the organization to leave and set up the competing organization.
Greenwald, the director, did not give in easily, and turned to the rabbinical court in Jerusalem with a request to prevent the establishment of the new organization. In response, the secessionists filed a countersuit, in which they demanded that Greenwald give an accounting of the use of all the money donated thus far. This demand is accompanied by a series of affidavits complaining about acts of corruption ostensibly committed by Greenwald.
The information that appears in the affidavits has also reached the offices of the Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs), and from there was transferred to the Jerusalem District police, who began an investigation of the claims. At the same time, the registrar's office has recently received a draft of a report about the conduct of Medic Hatzolah U'mazor Yisrael (the NPO that operates Hatzolah-Israel), which is awaiting Greenwald's reply.
The affidavit submitted to the rabbinical court reached Haaretz. Surprisingly, it was the Hatzolah secessionists, those who set all these processes in motion, who adamantly refused to cooperate with the newspaper. "That's what's the rabbis told us," was the reply heard from each of the signatories to the affidavits. One of them even offered the newspaper reporter payment in an attempt to prevent publication (see box). Their associates explain that they are afraid of being seen in the Haredi community as mosrim (informers), who are subject to punishment.
The accountant knows
From the year 2000, Eli Beer held the title of chief coordinator of Hatzolah-Israel. In effect, he was preoccupied mainly with raising funds for the organization, and was one of its senior officials. Today Beer is one of the leaders of the revolt and one of the founders of Ihud Hatzolah. His affidavit to the rabbinical court is the most detailed and serious of all those submitted.
"In the context of my job, I worked very closely with the chair of the organization, Mr. Greenwald," he writes in the affidavit. "During the course of my work I convinced many donors to contribute to the organization, and as a direct result of my activity over $3.5 million was donated. This money was earmarked for the most part for the purchase of equipment for the use of the organization's volunteers ... In addition to me, dozens of other people worked for the organization all over the world raising money ... From my activity in the NPO, I know that in the final analysis, of all this money only a miniscule percentage entered the coffers of the NPO ... Moreover, I have personal knowledge of the fact that Mr. Greenwald would receive checks from the Friends of Hatzolah, cash them on the black market and pocket the money in cash ... Duki considered the NPO's money his own private money ... [the organization] was run from his private purse."
In his affidavit, Beer explains that Greenwald established a limited liability company alongside the NPO, and "money is transferred to the company, which can distribute it to the shareholders." A Haaretz investigation found that the abovementioned company is Refuah Vechinuch Letovat Hatzibbur Ltd. (medicine and education for public benefit), established in April 2005. The director of the company is in fact Greenwald, and 13 shareholders are listed, including Greenwald himself as well as several members of Hatzolah-Israel and several of the secessionists. The company, which was registered as a non-profit organization, is located at the same address as the offices of Hatzolah, on 5 Moussaieff Street in Jerusalem.
In a conversation with Greenwald, he did not deny the existence of the company alongside the NPO, and the fact that his salary is paid through it, but he refused to say where the company's money comes from and how much money it receives.
What do you live on?
"I live here from the organization. I receive a salary here."
"I don't want to get into that. I live from the organization, I work here, I live an ordinary life."
Are you sure that you are allowed to receive a salary?
"I don't receive money from the NPO. I receive it from some organization."
From which organization?
"That's an answer that I don't have to give you."
Did you establish a limited liability company parallel to the NPO?
"Yes. A properly registered company."
What does it do?
"Medicine and education for the benefit of Israel."
Who funds the company?
The same donors as Medic?
"No. Those are different donors."
And you get your salary from there?
"You see? Not from Medic ... I have lawyers and accountants. I'm not some person alone in a forest who does things by myself."
When was the company founded?
"A year and a half, two years."
What is its turnover?
Why was it necessary to set up a company?
"The accountant knows that."
Help for the seriously ill
All over the Jewish world, especially during the difficult years of the intifada, pictures of Haredim taking care of the wounded in the heart of Jerusalem were worth a great many dollars in donations. The annual turnover of Hatzolah in recent years was about NIS 6-7 million, most of it in donations from Israel and abroad. These details are revealed in an internal document of the NPO, entitled "Operational Report for 2005." The report summarizes the NPO's activity for that year and says it received NIS 6 million in donations and another approximately NIS 100,000 from other sources. In Medic that year, they expected higher allocations from various sources, which were not received, and therefore the NPO ended the year with a deficit of about NIS 674,000.
Of the NIS 6 million, about NIS 2 million were used for salaries, office and administrative expenses, office equipment and computers and additional expenses for maintenance and operation. The rest of the money, according to the report, was used for beepers and MIRS devices, purchase and operating expenses of motorcycles, assistance to the seriously ill, assistance in building a hospital, and more. Incidentally, for the purchase of medical equipment an expenditure of NIS 664,000 was declared. Some of the secessionists claim that these figures are incorrect.
In an affidavit submitted to the rabbinical court, Beer points out that the financial reports of the NPO that were submitted to the Registrar of NPOs stated that during all the years of operation, no more than $1 million entered the bank accounts of the NPO: "Of course the question must be asked where the millions of dollars that were raised and donated to the organization disappeared to." He also declares that during the past five years, rescue equipment worth $1.354 million was purchased, a negligible sum compared to the donations received by the NPO.
"Yerah Toker, who was spokesman of the organization, said in his affidavit that "in the context of my work as spokesman of the organization ... I worked closely with Mr. Greenwald. The financial administration of the organization and of Duki's private expenses were carried out with cash from his private purse. A number of times I heard Duki say to people who asked him about his financial administration: "Don't interfere with my private pocket.'"
Toker added that "a number of times, when I asked to receive my salary, I was sent to Duki's wife, who gave me from her own money."
Beer claims in the affidavit that one of Duki's methods for taking money out of the NPO was fictitious orders for equipment. "Duki would 'order' equipment from a supplier for tens of thousands of shekels and more, pay for the equipment in advance from the organization's money, and receive an invoice for the order. After a while, he would cancel the order, but ask the supplier not to return the money to the NPO, and instead instructed him to transfer the money to outside people unconnected with the organization, in order to cover his personal expenses, or to return the money to him personally."
Beer alleges that Greenwald also submitted such fictitious invoices to various foundations as proof that he had purchased equipment, in order to receive financial support from them. These things are reinforced by the affidavit of Zeevik Sofer, who was in charge of motorcycles and equipment for the organization. He said that "invoices that testify to the purchase of equipment for hundreds of thousands of shekels were issued and presented to various bodies, although the equipment was never purchased."
One of the main suppliers, who members of Ihud Hatzolah mentioned as an unwitting partner to such maneuvers, denied in a conversation with Haaretz that Greenwald had ever canceled an order for equipment and had his money returned.
Beer describes in his affidavit another ostensible method for internal use of the NPO's money. "At some point, an additional goal of the NPO became 'assistance to the seriously ill' ... Duki would give a patient a check for NIS 50,000 in exchange for the patient's promise to return NIS 45,000 in cash. Duki even offered me a respectable 'commission' if I could find 'patients' willing to operate this way."
Beer added that Greenwald also purchased a motorcycle with NPO funds and gave it to a man to whom he owed money. He also claimed to know of at least one case in which the NPO's equipment was sold and Greenwald put the money into his own pocket.
Additional accusations appear in Zeev Sofer's affidavit. He claims that "The MPV utility vehicle, which was paid for by the NPO, would be transferred to the absolute ownership of Duki when the payments for it were completed ... A motorcycle purchased with the NPO's money was given to a person who is not a Hatzolah volunteer, who was one of Duki's creditors."
Eli Pollack, who was in charge of all the branches of the NPO, said in the affidavit that his salary was not paid for several months, and claimed that "to the best of my knowledge, taxes were not deducted from my salary. I demanded a chit and didn't receive one." Pollack also said that "purchasing transactions for hundreds of thousands of shekels were canceled and the money was transferred in cash according to Duki's demand, to pay various debts. Sealed envelopes of donations would be opened, cash would be put in his pocket."
Beer sums up that "in light of everything described above ... it is clear to everyone that this man and the other members of the committee and the administration that worked with him are not worthy of running a public organization ... The Haredi and religious people who volunteer to save lives deserve an organization that really takes care of them, that provides them with the medical and logistical equipment that enables them to carry out their mission of saving lives in Israel, and that is properly run for the benefit of the volunteers and the injured, rather than the private pockets of the wheeler-dealers and close associates."
Discussions in the rabbinical court have not yet ended, and the decisions handed down so far have actually tended to favor Greenwald. The court decided that the secessionists must transfer to Hatzolah-Israel money that they raised for it, forbade them to use the equipment of Hatzolah-Israel and ruled that they must return it to the organization. Moreover, they were forbidden to turn to donors who have contributed in the past to Hatzolah-Israel and ask them to donate to the new organization.