Rabbi Elimelech Firer, the Belz hassid who never received a formal medical education, started a whole new medical field. Carmel Luzzati met him to hear about the upcoming launch of a new medical rehabilitation center in Sderot – and also bumped into former Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan, who is recovering from his recent operation.
The Ezra LeMarpeh Association, founded by Rabbi A. E. Firer, provides assistance to the sick and needy.
Rabbi Firer: The phenomenon – and patient Meir Dagan
Carmel Luzzati, Channel 2 News
Thousands of people owe their lives to Rabbi Elimelech Firer. His day begins at the break of dawn and he doesn’t have a moment‘s rest. He goes through hundreds of applications from patients every day - at his Bnei Brak office, on the phone, and even on the road, he uses every spare moment to read patient medical histories.
He has never studied medicine, but many refer to him as the National Physician. Firer seems to do just fine without a formal education, as he determines what would be the best course of treatment for tens of thousands of patients, whom he then refers to the medical professionals most suitable for them. Not a day goes by without a visit to several hospitals, where he sees the patients he referred, and holds professional consultations with senior staff members.
"His mind is phenomenal. He can read CT’s, MRI’s, and pathology reports. He understands when a condition is serious, and knows exactly when to ask the right questions," says Ichilov Hospital Chief of Surgery Prof. Joseph Klausner. How does he know all this? He's been involved in medical matters for over 30 years, from 3am to 11pm. He answers questions from 200 to 250 patients daily. "That, times 30 years, he’s like a human Google," says one of his assistants.
"More than flesh and blood"
It all started quite by accident, 30 years ago. A friend asked Firer, only 24 years old at the time, to organize a global rescue operation for him. Having saved his friend's life, his success spread by word of mouth, and the applications haven’t stopped coming since.
When he decided to dedicate his life to helping others, he founded "Ezra Lemarpe", which provides patients with everything the National Health Service is unable to give. "We've never initiated anything that did not originate from the public," he says. "All our operations and services come from the heart, and are given with a great deal of care. Our sole motive is helping others. That is our motivation. This is my duty as a Jew and as a human being," the Rabbi stresses.
"I consider him a mentor. He’s more than flesh and blood. This man is so humble and so kind. The one thing he cares about is giving, simply giving to others," says Guy Rotem, 27, who suffered from a malignant growth in his leg, which the Rabbi diagnosed within half an hour.
Friend and Patient – former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan
Firer was among the first to hear from Meir Dagan about his illness. He accompanied him personally through it all, from the initial stages to the complicated liver transplant in Belarus. "When I see the Rabbi and my doctor, I'm perfectly fine," says Dagan. "The Rabbi is a man who will help anyone – from the highest to the lowest ranking people. Rabbi Firer is an institution. It may come as a surprise that a man who heads this type of an organization, and takes care of so many people, lives his own life in such simplicity and modesty. The Rabbi is constantly concerned with my progress, and helps me along with his good advice," Dagan praises the Rabbi.
Letters of gratitude and praise, as well as various honorary titles, cover the walls of the Rabbi’s office. As for the Rabbi himself, he is now fully focused on his next project: raising millions of shekels for a new medical rehabilitation center in Sderot.