In the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war we got to hear a lot about the dodgy dossier in which it was claimed that Iraq could deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes. A journalist said it was sexed up and got himself into deep trouble, a scientist doubted its veracity and ended up taking his own life while those who commissioned and tailored the report to suit their needs were whitewashed courtesy of Lord Hutton.
Well, the 45 minutes that forms the subject of this piece fortunately did not lead to war nor cost any lives though it is hardly less of a bombshell for that. In its report of the recent Hatzola fundraising evening, last week's Jewish Tribune causally dropped a supposed fact that 'the average waiting time for a London ambulance is 45 minutes.' No one in their right mind would accuse the Tribune of sexing anything whether up, down, diagonally or whichever position one can think of. Yet this 'statistic' appears in a box telling the story of a man whose life was apparently saved by the quick appearance of Hatzola on the scene. The implication is clearly that if not for Hatzola's swift action the man might well have been dead long before the average time of 45 minutes had elapsed.
I don't know much about ambulance response times but a simple search on Google led me to this page according to which last year's (April 2010 - March 2011) response times were for Category A (immediately life-threatening) calls, 75.14% within 8 minutes and 99 per cent within 19 minutes. For category B (serious) calls, response times were 87.2% within 19 minutes. The latest response times available also show that on average about 77% of category A calls are responded to within 8 minutes.
So will the Tribune now tell us where they got their 45 minutes from? They can't blame MI6 or the CIA like Blair did so who on earth gave them this bit of information? I would have thought that Hatzola's stellar work in life saving and its team of dedicated volunteers on constant duty at all times of day and night is praiseworthy enough without needing to denigrate other first aid services. But then I am not the Tribune for whom our good deeds are never quite enough of a kiddush hashem. Others must also be crap for otherwise how are they to prove the supremacy of a ‘Torah-true lifestyle’?
Then again it could just be that newspapers that work by the maxim, Comment is sacred; facts are free, don't bother employing fact checkers. Perhaps too they're not wired up to the web and google is one of those words excised by kosher lexicographers.
But there is something else at play too. To people of the Tribune's mindset, the yellow jackets and klaxons of our own cops, medics, chaveirim and shomrim are far more than the sum total of their parts. They create a myth of our self sufficiency, dispel the notion that our insularity might in any way be an obstacle and enforce the belief that despite the superior training and abundant resources available to others we can measure up and beat the best. To those tempted to stray it acts further as a warning that the police won't be there to protect you once the ghetto walls are behind you and you may well drop dead by doing something as stupid as relying on 999.
And for that a 45 minute response time perfectly fits the bill.