Volunteers in Israel’s United Hatzalah emergency-response network just had to do their own version of the viral meme #TetrisChallenge that’s been sweeping social media – and in classic Israeli style, they had to do it bigger.
On Monday morning in Tel Aviv, 70 volunteers from across Israel spent two hours arranging themselves and their gear — oxygen tanks, defibrillators, trauma kits, bulletproof vests, 20 ambucycles, six ambulances and assorted other rapid-response vehicles — on the ground in neat formation resembling blocks in the Tetris video game.
A TV crew from Channel 13’s morning show “HaOlam HaBoker” filmed the entire process, but the crowning image is the overhead photograph of the finished scene. That’s the crux of the Tetris Challenge that’s tearing up Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Reportedly started last November by the New Zealand Police Department’s shared photo of meticulously arranged gear and personnel, the Tetris Challenge has lately captured the imagination of emergency, military and law-enforcement units around the globe.
And many of the 6,000 volunteers in United Hatzalah were clamoring to get in on the fun.
“As soon as this started going viral, some of our volunteers were doing small Tetris Challenge initiatives on their own. A lot of them texted us and said,‘Why don’t we do a big one and break the record?’” United Hatzalah founder and president Eli Beer tells ISRAEL21c.
“It was a lot of fun playing Tetris with our gear, moving things here and there. You have to think carefully about where everything goes.”
This isn’t unlike a real emergency scene, he notes. Upon arrival, first responders must instantly determine the best positions for their gear and themselves to accomplish the task at hand.
Beer is proud that this gathering had by far more participants than any previous Tetris Challenge.
But he is most proud of the people who made it happen. United Hatzalah volunteers are neighborhood-based first responders dedicated to responding to nearby emergencies within three minutes to start first aid while an ambulance is on its way. They are not full-time EMTs.
“This is the most important thing,” Beer says. “All of these 70 volunteers who came for the Tetris Challenge took the morning off from their jobs, their families or their studies.”
Among these men and women were six plumbers, two electricians, three lawyers, two Bedouins from the Negev, an investment banker, ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, business people, and immigrants from countries including Syria.
Beer notes that the result of their team effort looked like an actual Tetris board in more ways than one.
“The real game has different colors, and this is what we saw today exactly – people with darker skin and people with lighter skin, some with peyos [side locks] and others completely secular, all connecting in this beautiful lifesaving challenge.”