Arab Ambulance Crew Asked to Leave Festival in Jerusalem

Haian ambulance company from Kafr Yassif says racism behind the decision to ask them to leave, but production company says it was a question of money.

The Haian ambulance in Jerusalem this week.
COurtesy Haian

An Arab-owned ambulance service from the north of Israel was asked to leave the scene of a festival in Jerusalem this week for which it had been hired to provide emergency services.

The Haian ambulance service from Kafr Yassif, in the western Galilee, was hired by the organizers of the mainly ultra-Orthodox Ascending to Jerusalem (Olim Leyerushalaim) festival in Jerusalem from Monday to Thursday this week. However, the team of doctors and paramedics was asked to leave the festival only hours after it arrived.

According to Haian, Magen David Adom and the Jerusalem municipality pressured the festival's organizers to get rid of the medical team because they were Arabs.

However, the producers, Panda Productions, maintained that the decision was taken after they discovered an error in their calculation of the cost of the ambulance service.

Haian CEO Malak Shehadeh told Haaretz that he and Panda had reached an agreement on Sunday to provide emergency services and that his team had arrived at the festival on Monday morning, as agreed. It consisted of a mobile intensive care unit, an ambulance and 10 staff members, including a doctor.

He said he had phoned the producers after the team arrived and was told that everything was in order.

However, he was contacted by the team a short while later and told that they had been asked to leave the festival immediately.

He subsequently phoned the manager of Panda who said, "It's not personal. We had no idea they would create such a fuss, because we brought in a team from the north." He made no mention of the cost of the service.

Shehadeh, who says he recorded the conversations, added that representatives of Magen David Adom and the municipality were present when his team packed up and left the festival.

The producers said that they would pay the ambulance company for one day's service. They denied that they had been pressured to get rid of Haian, saying that they had realized soon after the start of the festival that Magen David Adom would offer a far cheaper service.

"The Jerusalem municipality was not involved in hiring the ambulance service and did not exert any pressure," the municipality said in response. Magen David Adom did not provide a comment.