When I was 15 years old my parents had a very difficult time with me. They struggled to impart that taking school seriously would be important for my future. To their dismay, I was simply uninterested in any form of academics. Instead, I took a childhood memory of witnessing a terror bombing and did something about it. I took basic EMT courses, became a young ambulance volunteer, but still felt that there had to be a better way to save more lives. Over the years, I established a grassroots group of emergency first response volunteers which eventually grew to become United Hatzalah of Israel, the organization I lead today.

Recently, as a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, I had the privilege of attending a Harvard Business School executive education program on non-profit strategy and management. For the first time, not only did I want to study academically, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I learned a great deal from the other 142 participants in the course as we shared our struggles and experiences in leadership, management, strategy and scalability. It was also encouraging to brainstorm new tools together, and make many new friends whom I admire, and whom are also dedicated to worthy causes.

I am indebted with gratitude to The Schwab Foundation for offering me this opportunity, and for having the foresight to see what a great impact this fantastic course will have on United Hatzalah.

After all these years of building Hatzalah, I wish that my father were still alive for me to say, “Dad, although I didn’t take school seriously, I still inherited a big heart and endless energy from you. And you and Mom were right – a good education does go a long way!”


Author: Eli Beer. Founder and President, United Hatzalah of Israel, Israel; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Israel, 2010

Image:  A professor reading outside of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

United Hatzalah provides life-saving medical assistance immediately after an accident or life-threatening event, even before the arrival of an ambulance. Within a single year the organization’s trained volunteers treat more than 180,000 people and save lives on a daily basis.