Israel on Monday officially inaugurated the world’s first subterranean missile-proof blood center, which will double the country’s annual blood processing capacity when it begins operations later this year.
The Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency services’ new Marcus National Blood Services Center (MNBSC), located in the central Israeli city of Ramle, can withstand missiles, earthquakes, and chemical and biological attacks.
Once it is fully operational, it will provide all of the needed lifesaving blood components for the state of Israel as well as the Israel Defense Forces. The massive facility will be able to process nearly double the 260,000 units that are currently processed on a yearly basis.
“We’ll be able to process and test 500,000 units a year, which will enable Israel to have good blood services – protected and big enough – for the next 20-30 years,” Professor Eilat Shinar, director of MDA’s National Blood Services Division, said during a recent tour of the facility.
MDA presently collects over 1,000 units of blood from donations each day, Shinar said.
“This is hardly enough for the current situation and of course we have to also look to the future,” she stressed. “We need to be able to process many more units in [times of] peace, and of course during war and escalation we have to be prepared to supply blood to everyone who needs it.”
Israel’s national blood services center currently is located in Tel Hashomer, near the central Israel city of Tel Aviv. That center, built in the 1980s, will continue to operate during the transitional period and then be phased out and used only as an emergency backup. According to Shinar, the older facility is not compliant with seismic building codes, making it liable to sustain serious damage during a major earthquake.
The Marcus National Blood Services Center will house blood bank laboratories, secure parking, a research and development molecular lab, and blood storage vault. The vault is a 3,200-square-foot safe room that can protect against even severe missile threats during times of war, and will house Israel’s strategic inventory of 25,000 blood units.
The new center was built at a cost of $135 million and was funded primarily by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) donors, including Bernie Marcus, and Miriam Adelson and the late Sheldon Adelson. Other prominent donors include The Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable organization.
“Israel’s population has grown dramatically,” Catherine Reed, CEO of AFMDA, explained. “We cannot provide in the current facility the capacity that we need for the population today. In 1987, there were no missiles that could hit Tel Aviv and today it’s not even a question.”
Israel’s population, which currently stands at some 9.3 million people, is expected to reach 11.8 million by 2039.
Considered to be a national security asset, the MNBSC was designed and constructed in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office, Defense Ministry, Israel Defense Forces and the National Cyber Security Authority.
The three above-ground floors each have bomb shelters; the ground floor also has training facilities and a blood donation wing for the public. The shielded floors below-ground feature reinforced concrete walls, blast doors, airlocks and mechanisms to protect against biological and chemical warfare.
According to Moshe Noyovitch, the industrial and mechanical engineer who is overseeing the project on behalf of AFMDA, building the state-of-the-art facility was challenging because of its unique shielding capabilities.
“This facility is designed in terms of wartime criteria, in terms of size, utilities, backups, and other aspects like this,” Noyovitch said. “It is a civilian facility, but in some ways we have to adhere and comply with the National Security Council and Home Front Command, so they led us in these matters.”
In addition, the building also has special mechanisms in place to defend against cyberattacks.
“We are considered to be highly, highly protected,” Noyovitch said, without specifying further.
Ramle was chosen because of its central location and close proximity to key areas in Israel, including Ben-Gurion airport and major highways. The land on which it is built, owned by the Israel Land Authority, was transferred to MDA via special government decree in 2016. Some 374 people will work at the facility once it reaches full capacity.
The story is written by Maya Margit and reprinted with permission from The Media Line
First published: 15:52, 05.02.22