Update on Transplantation and Organ Donation 2023

Ematai, through their Option 18 initiative, is a partner with Israel’s National Transplant Centre in educating about halachic organ donation.

The National Transplant Centre recently released their 2023 statistics which contained several notable increases since October 7.

  • The number of new organ donation registrants was 39,020 as compared to 20,789 in 2022.
  • Since October 7th, the number of families agreeing to posthumous organ donation was 85%, as compared to 58-63% in previous months. Altogether, there were 107 cases of posthumous organ donation in 2023.
  • Tissue donations increased as well: 1167 corneas, 86 skin donations, 70 heart valves, and 44 bones/tendons. [The corneas are used to restore sight, the skin donations are used to treat burns, the bone donations are used to treat orthopedic injuries which were especially common this year due to the war, and the tendons are used for prosthetics].

The families of seven soldiers chose to donate their organs. 32 lives were saved:

Netanel Menachem Eitan z”l

Netanel Menachem Eitan was a 22-year-old soldier from Jerusalem who donated three organs after his death. A 56-year-old received a heart transplant, a 36-year-old received lungs, and a 70-year-old received a liver transplant. Netanel had signed an Adi organ donation card and his family wanted to continue “his spirit of giving, in giving life to others.”

Alemnew Emanuel Feleke z”l

Alemnew Emanual Feleke was a 22-year-old soldier from Kiryat Gat who donated six organs after his death. One person received a heart and lung transplant, a 53-year-old received a liver transplant, a 45-year-old received a kidney and pancreas transplant, and a 58-year-old received a kidney transplant. Feleke’s brother Noam said that donating his brother’s organs “was a way of continuing his spirit of giving.”

Shoham Ben Harush z”l

Shoham Ben Harush was a 20-year-old soldier from Hispin who donated five organs after his death. A 48-year-old received a heart transplant, a 59-year-old received a cornea transplant, a 61-year-old received a liver transplant, and a 69-year-old and a 57 year-old received kidney transplants. Shoham’s father said, “The knowledge that he saved lives provides comfort alongside the great pain.”

Rabbi Na’aran Eshchar z”l

Rabbi Eshchar was a 33-year-old soldier and father of two from Shadmot Mehola who donated four organs posthumously. Four months ago, he altruistically donated a kidney to a stranger. A 59-year-old man received a heart transplant; a 72-year-old man received lungs; a 67-year-old man received a liver transplant; and a 43-year-old man received a kidney transplant. The Israeli poet Tzur Ehrlich wrote a poem “The Short Story” about the message that Rabbi Eshchar’s wife sent to let family and friends know that he had merited to donate his second kidney. The poem can be read here in Hebrew.

Yehonatan Samo z”l

Yehonatan Samo was a 20-year-old soldier from Karmei Tzur whose family donated six of his organs after his death. He had previously signed an Adi card through the Israeli organ donor registry. A 46-year-old received a heart transplant; a 36-year-old received lungs; a 51-year-old received a liver transplant; a 8-month-old baby girl received a liver transplant; a 10-year-old received a kidney transplant; and a 50-year-old received a kidney transplant. Yehonatan’s family said, “The fact that a part of him will continue to live and help others… there is nothing more uplifting than that. Thanks to his example, many others signed organ donation cards during the shiva period, and more will do so.”

Roi Nahari z”l and Amichai Rubin z”l

Two IDF soldiers saved many Israelis in both their short lifetimes and their deaths. Roi Nahari z”l and Amichai Rubin z”l were killed while fighting in separate locations (Roi in Kfar Aza, Amichai in his army station) after being attacked by brutal Hamas terrorists. Their last actions in life helped save their comrades and evacuate Jewish families. After their deaths were declared in the hospital, their families decided to donate their organs. In both cases, 5 organs were donated. Roi and Amichai saved numerous people in their last hours of life and 10 more after they died.

Rabbi Shlomo Brody said that he had been privileged to make shiva calls to both their families. He said: “From the outside, they seem very different. Roi’s family lives in a secular, pastoral neighborhood outside of Jerusalem, while Amichai’s religious-Zionist family founded the garin torani (“Torah seed cluster”) in Acco. Roi’s buddies wore earrings, Amichai’s brothers sported peyot. Yet once I began talking to the families, I quickly heard their shared love for this country alongside their pride, amidst all of the acute pain, that their loved one saved so many people in life and death. The values that unite us are greater than our external differences”.

Roi’s family decided to donate after his twin brother, also a soldier, told them that just one month ago, they had told each other that they would want to save others if the worst would happen to them. Amichai’s family decided to donate after hearing from the rabbi at Hadassah Hospital about the incredibly strong rabbinic support for organ donation within the religious Zionist world”.

Roi, a paratrooper commander, saved Olga Paikin, a 44-year-old mother of five who suffered from hepatitis, a serious liver disease, for the last 30 years; a 72-year-old man who received Roi’s lungs; and three others. Paikin was quoted as saying, “His family has saved my life, and done so during the darkest days of their lives. There are no adequate words to say how thankful I am to them and Lt. Nahari.

Amichai served in the Golani Battalion. A 70-year-old individual received a lung transplant at Beilinson Hospital, while a 23-year-old received a liver transplant at Ichilov Hospital. Additionally, an eight-year-old received a liver lobe transplant at Schneider Hospital, a 29-year-old received a kidney transplant at Beilinson Hospital, and a seven-year-old received a kidney transplant at Rambam Hospital. The eight-year-old’s father commented, “My child reveres soldiers. When he hears that his donor was a brave soldier, it will undoubtedly increase his strength.”