On May 2, Israel dedicated its new state-of-the-art blood bank center in Ramla, with top Israeli government officials present to herald the six-floor facility that will process and safely store nearly all of Israel’s blood donations for both civilians and members of the Israel Defense Forces. The new center took four years, $135 million and 11,000 tons of steel to complete.
It also required $35 million, donated by Billi and Bernie Marcus, who were represented at the dedication by sons Fred Marcus and Michael Morris, publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times. The facility, which is scheduled to open in the summer, has been named the Marcus National Blood Services Center. It will be operated by Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency medical and blood-services organization.
“My brother Fred and I were proud to represent Billi and Bernie at this dedication,” said Morris a day after the event. “I think Fred did a great job at sharing how spiritually uplifting this gift is to our family while I mentioned how important it was that we pass along our connection and affinity to Israel, our homeland, as he did with us.”
Bernie and Billi Marcus tuned in to the dedication ceremony from a watch party in Boca Raton, Fla., along with 70 other guests, all of whom contributed funds to the blood bank, according to Bernie Marcus.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. When it’s operational, it will be a great trip for us,” he said. Another watch party was organized in Cleveland, Ohio.
Marcus recalled learning years ago that the current blood bank center, dedicated almost exactly 35 years ago at Tel HaShomer, had to move its operations into bomb shelters when rockets launched from Gaza targeted the Tel Aviv area.
The new facility “doubles Israel’s blood capacity and it will be protected from missiles,” biological and chemical warfare and earthquakes, Marcus said. “And it’s not just Jewish blood, it’s Muslim blood and Christian blood.”
Marcus donated the funds in two installments. In 2016, he contributed $25 million; then, last December, The Marcus Foundation announced a $10 million matching grant to ensure the center’s completion. Marcus told the AJT that it wasn’t a hard sell.
“We had a medical director who made a trip to Israel and came back and told me how terrifying it would have been if a bomb hit” the blood center. “We were pre-sold. We knew it was necessary.”
He added that donating to the blood bank is more meaningful than donating to a museum. “It has functional meaning.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz all spoke at the ceremony. The State of Israel actually provided the land for the new blood bank, which was designed to have three of its six floors underground.
Speaking alternately in Hebrew and English, Herzog said that every 17 seconds, someone in Israel needs blood. “Human blood has no substitute. Blood is life; it is the liquid of life,” he said.
Herzog also mentioned that he had made a personal call to Marcus the day before the dedication to thank him.
Ramla Mayor Michael Vidal spoke about the new center’s enormous impact on his city, prompting a lot of new development in the area. Marcus compared it to the Georgia Aquarium, which he helped to develop, and its impact on downtown Atlanta. “The area around it was revitalized,” he noted.
Eilat Shinar, MDA’s deputy director general and director of its blood services division, spoke about the organization’s 375 employees, including hematologists, phlebotomists and lab technicians who will all benefit from the new center.
“Logistically, it will reduce the number of plasma freezers we now have sitting in hallways in Tel HaShomer, as plasma will be stored in the huge, minus-30 degrees Centigrade monitored cold rooms. And our safety-testing processes, which are now performed in three cramped laboratories, will be performed in one large, open space, modern mega-lab, integrating the processes on an automated monitored line.”
A recorded video provided a visual tour of the facility while performances by Tararam and light shows entertained the audience for the evening event.
According to American Friends of Magen David Adom CEO Catherine Reed, “The construction of MDA’s Marcus National Blood Services Center was a dream for more than 20 years. We are overcome with pride, awe and tremendous relief that the dream is fulfilled. And you, Billi and Bernie, were among the first to understand its vital and strategic importance to the people of Israel. Your foresight and generosity led the way in obtaining significant donations from more than 600 Americans and others around the world to protect Israel’s blood supplies — the country’s lifeline in times of war and peace.”
In addition to the Marcus family, major donations were made by:
Adelson Family Foundation
The Bloomberg Philanthropies
Kurt and Susan Charm Schwartz
Crown Family Philanthropies
The Deshe, Diamond and Saul Shottenstein families
The Donner and Sznajer families
Barbara and Dr. Bruce Ribner
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
Marcus said contributions to such projects are “nothing new to me or my family. I was blessed to be part of the Home Depot story. We will continue doing this,” he said, pointing out that the couple has pledged to give 90 percent of its wealth to such projects.
“Since leaving Home Depot, I am devoting my life to philanthropy.”
- Blood Bank
- Bernie Marcus
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Israel Defense Forces
- Fred Marcus
- Michael Morris
- Magen David Adom
- Tel HaShomer
- tel aviv
- Jewish blood
- Muslim blood
- Christian blood
- Israeli President Isaac Herzog
- Defense Minister Benny Gantz
- Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz
- Ramla Mayor Michael Vidal
- Georgia Aquarium
- Eilat Shinar
- American Friends of Magen David Adom CEO Catherine Reed
- Adelson Family Foundation
- The Bloomberg Philanthropies
- Donna Calcaterra
- Kurt and Susan Charm Schwartz
- Crown Family Philanthropies
- The Deshe
- Diamond and Saul Shottenstein families
- The Donner and Sznajer families
- Judy Fleischer
- Barbara and Dr. Bruce Ribner
- The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
- Home Depot
- Billi Marcus
- Jan Jaben-Eilon