Jerusalem, Israel - May 1, 2022 - Magen David Adom’s (MDA) Marcus National Blood Services Center, in Ramle, is the world’s first subterranean and shielded blood bank and processing center, designed to protect Israel’s strategic blood reserves from a possible missile, chemical, and biological attack, as well as earthquakes.
A first in its concept, design and engineering capabilities, the facility was built at a cost of $135 million, funded primarily by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), MDA’s U.S.-based fundraising affiliate. The new facility will double the country’s annual blood processing capacity and potentially save tens of thousands of lives every year.
The center bears the name of Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, and his wife, Billi. The American philanthropists generously donated $35 million to the project. Other prominent donors include Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson z"l, and the Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. From Baltimore, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, plus Sheldon and Sandy Dobres, and Chuck and Shelley Sandler are included on the list of generous donors.
The current national blood services facility in Ramat Gan was built in the 1980s and is not large enough to meet the demands of Israel’s growing population or the country’s needs in times of war. In the past, during rocket attacks, MDA has had to cease processing blood and move the country’s blood reserves into a bomb shelter, interrupting blood production at a time when it might be needed most. The current building is also not compliant with Israel’s seismic building codes, making it vulnerable to damage in a major earthquake, which Israel is likely to endure in the future because of its location on two seismic faults.
Following the decision to build the new facility with state-of-the-art technology to double blood processing capacity, maintain self-sufficiency, and guarantee a safe blood supply for present and future generations, a joint MDA/AFMDA team identified an ideal location in the central city of Ramle. The land, owned by the Israel Land Authority (ILA), was transferred to MDA, as per a special government decree in 2016. The location was chosen because of its access to four major highways, Routes 1,6,40, and 431, the airport, and the railway system. MDA's aim is to establish a safe and seamless blood supply network for the entire country, especially in a time of emergency need.
The six-story non-combustible, steel and concrete building will house all of Israel’s blood-processing functions, as well as several MDA logistic functions, which are synergetic to Marcus Center operations, including central storage and protected housing for the fleet of MDA transportation vehicles. Construction began in 2017 on the site which is to be operational this summer with the Ramat Gan facility serving as a backup if necessary.
The Marcus Center features three levels of protection, with varying security zones. There are three floors above ground, each with its own emergency bomb shelter. The ground floor has training facilities, an auditorium, a dining area, and a blood donation wing for the public; the second floor houses the Human Milk Bank, where milk is collected for premature and ill infants, and more training facilities. The blood center facility has over 350 mezuzahs. Several were crafted specially by artists from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design for MDA.
The shielded area, which includes extra-thick concrete walls, blast doors, and airlocks, as well as biological and chemical protection, extends across three subterranean floors.
The first underground floor houses shielded blood bank laboratories, a transportation center, and secure fleet parking, where all new ambulances will be equipped.
The second underground floor houses the Cord Blood Inventory, an R&D molecular lab, and a chemical and biological warfare air-filtration system that enables all staff throughout the building to continue working and processing blood in the event of a chemical or biological attack.
At the heart of the third and deepest level lies the Blood Storage Vault, a 300-square-meter safe room shielded against the most severe missile threats, in which Israel’s strategic inventory of 25,000 blood components will be safeguarded in times of war.
To ensure the highest levels of protection and continuity of operations in war scenarios, every critical system has a secondary system, including two ramps leading into the underground floors, four sets of elevators, and four generators.
With continued threats from Iran and beyond, this new maximum-security facility will prepare Israel’s national emergency service to preserve life in the hardest of conditions — for decades to come.
Thank you to Catherine Reed, CEO, American Friends of Magen David Adom, Professor Eilat Shinar M.D, Director, MDA’s National Blood Services Division, and Industrial and mechanical engineer Moshe Noyovitch for leading the fascinating press tour of the new facility prior to the opening, with highlights summarized in the video.
Considered a cornerstone of Israel’s national security, the strategic facility was designed and built in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defense, Israel Defense Forces, and the National Cyber Security Authority.
On the evening of May 2, 2022, Israeli President Isaac Herzog is to be present for the new blood services center dedication.