Highland Park dad, sons to climb Kilimanjaro


HIGHLAND PARK — Highland Park resident Howard Zavell plans to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in December with his sons Max, 15, and Ben, 12. They are using the climb as a chance to share an exhilarating adventure while raising money and awareness for Magen David Odom, the emergency services system in Israel. Information is available at www.opclimbmda.com.

Q. Why Mt. Kilimanjaro and why now?

A. While the climb takes you to 19,336 feet, it is not a technical climb. So you have the ability to experience a high-altitude climb, without the technical requirements that are usually associated with a high mountain experience. I have always thought that it would be a good physical challenge, but having my sons experience this with me has given it an entirely new meaning.

Q. I understand you first had some “push back” about taking your sons along. What convinced everyone that this is a good idea?

A. After talking with an old friend who had climbed Kilimanjaro, I realized that it was realistic to climb with my sons. My sons camp a lot, including in the winter. Having shared many outdoor experiences together, I felt confident that this was an adventure for which they could prepare.

Q. You’ve spent the last year in training for the expedition. What was your regimen?

A. Once we decided we were going to climb Kili, we started a stair climbing and hiking regimen. Mostly, we used the stair case at the Openlands in Fort Sheridan. We started with walking these, then running them, and then running up and down them while wearing a backpack. It was a terrific place to train, except we had a few wasp attacks during the summer.

Q. Why did you choose to raise money for Magen David Odom?

A. MDA is basically the Israeli Red Cross. It runs all of the ambulance and emergency services in Israel. It supplies 95 percent of the blood in Israel to the civilian population and 100 percent to the Israeli Defense Forces. MDA will help whomever needs it, without a question about race or religion. Today, MDA is even more important with the recent attacks and violence. No matter how you feel politically and emotionally about the situation, as a human being, you realize that the work which MDA does in Israel saves lives.

Q. What do you hope your sons will take away from the climbing experience?

A. My wife and I want our children to continue to learn that hard work and preparation are the keys to success, whether the task at hand is a physical adventure, a charitable act, an academic event or a business pursuit. By raising money for MDA, we’re teaching the importance of participating in causes beyond ourselves.

BY KAREN BERKOWITZ | kberkowitz@pioneerlocal.com November 26, 2012 8:46AM

American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) Helping Save Lives in Israel


Credit American Friends of Magen David Adom

MDA, (Magen David Adom) Israel’s first-aid and disaster relief organization, proudly emblematized by the Red Star of David, plays a pivotal role saving lives in Israel regardless of race, religion or political affiliation during times of both war and peace. This humanitarian organization is much like the American Red Cross and 911 emergency services. When you dial 101 in Israel, these medical teams will perform lifesaving procedures such as opening the trachea in the case of a breathing obstruction before patients arrive at the hospital, caring for such medical conditions as heart attacks, strokes, road accidents, pregnancies, those injured by terrorist attacks and more.

With a current fleet of 800 ambulances (some armored), operating from 123 Emergency Medical Stations throughout Israel, and 16 MDA Stations in West Bank communities, MDA carries a colossal responsibility for its nation and those near it.

First established in 1930 by a nurse named Karen Tenebaum as a result of the Arab riots in 1929 that attacked Jewish farming and urban settlements, Magen David Adom has provided vital medical support to the public for all pre-hospital emergency needs such as medical, disaster, ambulance and blood services for over eighty years via its team of professionals and volunteers.  Adhering to the Hebrew word, Arevut, the responsibility ‘to care for other people, the same way we care about ourselves’, MDA today has over 13,000 volunteers dedicating themselves to aid all those in need of immediate medical care. Their humanitarian efforts extend beyond the borders of Israel, helping those international communities victimized by environmental disasters such as Haiti, Japan and New Orleans.

About ten years after MDA was founded, a group of Americans aligned together, also practicingArevut and founded the American Red Magen David for Palestine, now called American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) which is the sole U.S. fundraising arm of MDA year-round. During World War II, American supporters shipped over the much needed ambulances and blood collection vans and in 1950 when MDA was officially declared as Israel’s National Red Cross Society, AFMDA spearheaded fundraising campaigns to raise the monies necessary for MDA to continue its lifesaving efforts.

In the early 1980’s, AFMDA raised over $32 million in funds to build a National Blood Services Center for MDA which supplies 100% of the Israeli Defense Forces blood needs and 95% of the blood needed for hospitals and also houses Israel’s Cord Blood Bank which is the platform for much of Israel’s stem cell research. They receive 1200-1400 units of blood per day which is then separated into parts to treat various health issues. In addition to locals donating blood, American Friends of Magen David Adom have organized blood drives for tourists visiting Israel, often setting them up in hotels during peak holidays as there is often a shortage during this time. In 2007, over 800 tourists donated blood. Although the AFMDA no longer holds blood drives in Israel, tourists can visit any MDA station and donate blood if they wish.

In the last five years, during times of extreme vulnerability, AFMDA rolled out massive emergency fundraising campaigns to ensure MDA had all the tools it needed to serve its nation’s emergency healthcare needs.

In 2006, when Israel was attacked by Hezbolla rockets (The Lebanon War) destroying many of MDA’s needed medical supplies and ambulances, AFMDA declared a Code Red relentlessly raising funds to replenish MDA with the necessary resources for its survival. MDA received approximately 47 ambulances: 36 standard (Basic Life Support) ambulances, 10 Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICUs) and one armored ambulance.

In 2009, AFMDA declared another Code Red during the Gaza War when Israeli communities were struck with rockets, renovating MDA stations which had been under attack, building crucial emergency stations and generating funds to nourish MDA with other medical resources.

For 72 years, during times of war and peace, AFMDA has been a strong ally for the humanitarian efforts of MDA which currently cares for approximately 600,000 patients annually.

Since its inception, the AMFDA has generated solidarity from all those that desire to help save lives in Israel. For some it is a religious calling while for others it is an emotional, cultural or spiritual connection to the country and its humanitarian efforts.

There are AFMDA chapters all over the United States and while no Code Red has been declared, in these uncertain times AFMDA is accelerating its fundraising efforts to ensure that MDA is prepared for more routine emergencies, like car accidents and heart attacks, and that it will be prepared if any attacks should occur.

In the Midwest:

A group of people, in the Chicago land area, are raising funds for AFMDA via an ambitious adventure of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, a 19,336 foot mountain in Africa: Operation Climb.

The Great Vest Side Men’s Group, an organization originally created as a social gathering for those growing up on the West Side of Chicago circa 1930-1960 has also blossomed into a fundraising arm for charities, AFMDA in particular. They are currently raising funds for their 8th ambulance (approximate cost: $100,000) and a second pediatric dialysis machine for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. (approximate cost:$25,000) The word, “Vest” in the organization’s name was a tribute to many of the member’s immigrant Jewish parents’ accents.

For more info on AFMDA in the Midwest Region:
Contact Midwest Regional Director: Sandy Rosen (888-674-4871)

In the West: 
In Los Angeles, 13 year old Robert Leeds raised money to purchase two ambulances for MDA in lieu of gifts for his bar-mitzvah, setting an extraordinary example for his peers.

Currently, in the West:
On July 9th, Magen David Synagogue in Beverly Hills is holding an event to raise funds for an ambulance. The event will be hosted at a congregant’s home and the ambulance will be funded by donations from synagogue members.

On July 14th, Pacific Palisades resident Vivian Feintech will be hosting a 60th birthday party, but in lieu of gifts, she will be asking friends and family for donations toward an ambulance. Impacted by a recent visit to the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been a target of bombs from Gaza, she was inspired to fundraise for AMFDA.

For more info on AFMDA in the Western Region:
Contact Western Regional Director: Yossi Mentz (800) 323-2371

In the Northeast: 
Recently, NYC Mayor Bloomberg donated the new MDA station in Jerusalem named after his father, recognizing MDA’s spirit of philanthropy.

For more info on AFMDA in the Northeast Region:
Contact Northeastern Regional Director: Gary Perl (866) 632-2763

Over the last four years, AFMDA has raised over $100 million dollars providing emergency vehicles, blood mobiles, renovations to MDA stations, medical supplies, administrative training and infrastructure to the MDA National Blood Services Center. Its valorous deeds will continue and will

Highland park Patch by LG Taylor June 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm


Background about the Climb

Howard Zavell’s lifelong dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, came to an abrupt end the night before they were going to summit two years ago.   At that time his two sons, Max (age 14) and Benjamin (age 12), had trained with Howard for more than two year in preparation.  Now they are returning to Tanzania to complete there goals.   They will be climbing the 19,336 foot mountain this December, climbing from lush forest, to a mooreland zone, through an alpine desert, and then to the roof of Africa.  Benjamin will be carrying his Shofar which he bought in Israel, to the summit, and he will blow the Shofar on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in triumph.

Continuing their family’s strong commitment to charity and the State of Israel, they have dedicated the climb to raise awareness of MDA and to help raise funds on its behalf.  In order to meet their goals, they have put together a unique group of individuals from various backgrounds, to become Operation Climb.


Magen David Adom

Since 1930, Magen David Adom (MDA) has been Israel’s sole national emergency medical and blood services organization.  MDA is the equivalent of all of the 911 services in the United States, plus the Red Cross, combined to provide all ambulance services, emergency medical care, and blood related services in Israel.

Today, more than ever, Israel is facing threats from its enemies, both near and far.  With Iran increasing its production of a higher grade enriched uranium over the last few months and continuing to call for the destruction of the State of Israel, and all of the uncertainty created by the Arab Spring uprisings, the threats to Israel today are numerous and significant.  A recent significant escalation of rockets being launched randomly and indiscriminately into Southern Israel has caused injuries and damages to persons and property.  These attacks place stress upon MDA’s resources and assets.

We can help in this time of uncertainty; we can help MDA be prepared for both normal daily individual emergency calls throughout Israel, and also to be prepared and ready should any enemy of Israel attack.  No one wants to think that this could actually happen, but we cannot just rely on hope and faith that Israel’s enemies will not carry out threats of destruction.  History has shown us that it can happen.  We must not wait to be prepared.  We must act today.


We can be powerful together and help direct Israel’s fate through our activities right here in the United States. We, as Operation Climb, can directly help MDA to be prepared with ambulances, emergency equipment and its blood bank, through our contributions. Please donate today to: Operation Climb. 100% of your donation goes to American Friends of Magen David Adom, which is the tax exempt fundraising organization representing MDA in the United States. Your donation will help save someone’s life. Donate today !