Hungry customers waiting to order at Falafel Harel in the Israeli coastal city of Bat Yam might not have realized just how special the man behind the counter is. Tal Kupferstein, a married father of five, recently opened the falafel shop in August. When he’s not behind the counter filling orders, he’s also a volunteer with United Hatzalah, Israel’s cutting-edge volunteer Emergency Medical Service organization.

United Hatzalah is a group of over 5,000 ordinary Israelis who volunteered to undergo emergency training and be on call, ready to respond to medical emergencies anywhere in the country, serving everyone, regardless of race, religion or national origin.

Equipped with GPS technology and specially outfitted bicycles, volunteers have an average response time of just three minutes nation-wide; in Israeli cities and metropolitan areas, they have an average response time of 90 seconds.

On November 15, 2019, Tal Kupferstein received a call about a nearby accident and set off to help. Tragically, while he was responding he himself was hit by a car and was gravely injured. With a punctured lung, broken ribs, and fractures to his pelvis and leg, Tal underwent emergency surgery and faces a lengthy recovery.

Emergency services had already saved Tal’s life; now Hatzalah stepped in to save his business as well.

Once it was clear Tal was out of danger, his fellow Hatzalah volunteers wanted to help. He’d only recently opened Falafel Harel, and the store is the only means of support for Tal’s young family. Emergency services had already saved Tal’s life; now Hatzalah stepped in to save his business as well.

Hatzalah volunteers signed up to work behind the counter at Falafel Harel, keeping it open and helping the Kupferstein family. Within days, volunteers had signed up for two months' worth of shifts. One Hatzalah volunteer, who owns a falafel shop in the Israeli city of Holon even closed his own store for a day so he could help keep Tal's shop open.

Eli Beer helping at the falafel store.

Eli Beer, the president and founder of United Hatzalah, signed up for a shift in the store on November 19. “We (Hatzalah) are a national network of EMT volunteers that is made up of wonderful people who not only help the ill and injured, but also one another,” he explained; “It is heartwarming to see how fast volunteers from all over Israel signed up to do a shift here at the store and keep it running until Tal is back on his feet. It really shows that United Hatzalah is more than just an organization, we are a family.”

As word has spread through Israel about the Hatzalah volunteers manning the store, Israelis have flocked to Falafel Harel for a meal. Some customers were ordering falafel meals to be delivered to soldiers and first responders. Hatzalah set up an ordering form for meals to be donated in this way. Each meal costs 20 shekels, or about $5.75.

Within hours of going live, one donor bought 1,000 meals to be distributed to soldiers. The International Chairman of United Hatzalah, Mark Gerson, opened a campaign that is matching the first 2,000 meals ordered from the shop to be sent to soldiers and first responders, and funding another 2,000 meals as well. As he worked behind the counter, dishing up falafel and pita sandwiches, Eli Beer explained, “We have the opportunity to raise income for Tal and his family...and help our hungry soldiers and first responders at the same time. This is an amazing opportunity for giving.”

Tal is facing a lengthy recuperation, but has been cheered by the help and love his predicament has sparked. “Thank you to all of my friends and fellow responders,” he said. “We help each other on a daily basis to go out and save lives. Now, they are all banding together to save my business. I am so grateful to each and every one of them and to the organization as a whole.”

And as thousands of soldiers and first responders throughout Israel receive unexpected gifts of tasty falafel meals, that feeling of gratitude is being spread across Israel.

To help support Tal, click here:

. Meals for Israeli soldiers or first responders can be purchased here:

If you are in Israel, Falafel Harel can be found using the Israeli-invented navigation app Waze: