Chutzpah is a Jewish word meaning audacity.
In 1980, Eli Beer was a seventeen-year-old boy living in Jerusalem.
He wanted to do something worthwhile, so he volunteered to be an Emergency Medical Technician working on ambulances.
But the traffic in Jerusalem is terrible, the ambulance always took a minimum of twenty minutes to get to an emergency.
Once, his ambulance was called to a little girl choking, by the time they got there she was dead.
A doctor said “I was a block away, I could have saved her”.
Eli Beer went to see his boss.
He said he and a dozen colleagues all lived in the same area.
If the dispatcher would let them know when there was an emergency in their area they could run there fast, and keep the patient alive until the ambulance arrived.
His boss said “Kid, go back to school or go open a falafel stand. We don’t need your wild ideas”.
What Eli Beer did next was an example of chutzpah.
He thought “The hell with you. If you won’t give me the addresses I’ll get them myself”.
And he bought two police-band radios.
Almost immediately he heard about a nearby car crash.
He ran to the scene and found an old man bleeding to death.
He stopped the bleeding and kept the man alive until the ambulance arrived, twenty minutes later.
And he thought, in two years that’s the first life I’ve saved.
At that point he quit ambulances and started Hatzalah United.
He would listen for emergencies and broadcast the details to whichever of his volunteers was nearest.
And they kept patients alive until the ambulances arrived.
Then Eli Beer decided they could save even more lives with a little bit more chutzpah.
All the ambulances were getting stuck in traffic.
But what if the ambulances could travel through the traffic, even on the pavement?
They needed motorbikes that were equipped like ambulances, with blood plasma and defibrillators.
With more chutzpah, Eli Beer began raising money to buy them.
Now they could get to any emergency inside three minutes.
They could keep people alive until the ambulance got there.
And they began saving more lives, and more lives.
And Eli Beer raised more money to buy more motorbikes.
Currently they have two hundred medically equipped motorbikes across Israel.
Every motorbike will save, on average, 120 lives a year.
Hatzalah United saves lives regardless of race, religion, or nationality.
In fact, when Eli Beer’s own father had a heart attack, his life was saved by one of Hatzalah United’s Moslem volunteers.
So successful is Hatzalah United, it’s being copied in Brazil, India, Mexico, even Australia.
And it’s saving lives in all those places.
None of which would have happened without a seventeen-year-old boy’s chutzpah.
The dictionary defines chutzpah as:
“The personal confidence that allows one to do things that may seem shocking to others.
Gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, insolence, audacity, temerity, presumption plus arrogance”.
We could also define chutzpah as creativity.