Israel looks to iconic Australian Surf Life Saving model as drowning prevention solution

August 13, 2021 by  
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The iconic Australian Surf Life Saving model made history when it was presented by Paul Hakim, a member of Sydney’s Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, to the Israel Knesset Parliamentary Committee for Interior Affairs and Environmental Protection…reports Sarah Vanunu.

Paul Hakim (centre), on Herzliya beach this week with a group of Nippers ages 7-13.

Hakim lives in Israel and is President and co-founder of the Israel Life Saving Federation (ILSF).

Following a spike in recent drownings, an emergency committee was called by the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Environmental Protection. A special forum was convened in order to discuss the dire lack of a national plan to overcome drownings and to explore ways to create a national water safety strategy for drowning prevention in Israel.

Hakim stated in the Knesset hearing, that “the Australian Surf Life Saving model is the world leader in water safety education, drowning prevention and surf rescue and it would be in Israel’s interests to implement the Australian model”.

Paul Hakim, President, Israel Life Saving Federation, speaking at The Knesset’s committee hearing on August 9.

Israel’s coastline spans 350km, of which, only 17km of beaches offer rescue services. Since 2010 a mere 21 declared beaches have been added, totalling 157 declared beaches despite the growing population, which is almost at 10 million citizens. From summer 2020 until the present, 51 people have drowned on Israel’s coast. This swimming season alone which opened in March 2021, has seen over two dozen fatal drownings including 10 children. In Israel, drowning is the number one cause of death of children in the summer. Most drownings occur on unpatrolled beaches, and 60% of cases occur when lifeguards are off duty.

Matthew Wise, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Australia in Israel, addressed the forum via Zoom on behalf of the Australian Ambassador to Israel,  Paul Griffiths. Mr Wise explained the significance and success of the iconic institution of Surf Life Saving. He said, “Over 660,000 lives have been saved by Australian Lifesavers since its establishment and [the movement] maintains a community of 180,000 volunteers bringing people from multiple cultures together on the beach with a single goal — to save lives”.

The Knesset’s committee meeting was attended by members of Parliament, mayors, emergency rescue organizations, the National Leadership Forum of Parents Committees, the Federation of Local Authorities, sports associations and other charities and official bodies.

Matthew Wise, Australian Deputy Head of Mission to Israel, speaking at the Knesset’s committee

”This is a step in the right direction to establish a nation-wide water safety awareness and surf rescue culture”, said Hakim Since 2020, ILSF has already begun to implement the Junior Nippers Development Program on Israel’s beaches – to much success. Graduates of the surf lifesaving program, including a 14-year-old boy as well as a parent who participated in the water safety course last summer, have both already prevented drownings by saving young bathers in distress when lifeguards were not on duty.

Israel Life Saving Federation was established by former Sydney-sider brothers Paul and Danny Hakim. ILSF is an Associate Member of the European and International Life Saving Federations, and its activities are based on the Australian Surf Life Saving model.

Mr Doug Hawkins, Director of Communications and Marketing at Sydney’s Coogee Surf Life Saving Club and a Trainer Assessor and Facilitator, has been instrumental in building a strong foundation of aquatic management and rescue training around the world including in Israel, India, Thailand and around Australia.

Surf lifesaving originated in Australia in 1907 and is one of Australia’s greatest cultural exports.

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