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January 11, 2017 5:52 am

Treating Terror Victims, Uniting Israel

avatar by Eli Beer

United Hatzalah volunteers. Photo: provided.

United Hatzalah volunteers. Photo: provided.

As a society, we in Israel have suffered from far too many terror attacks — and one might think that we would become desensitized to these atrocities. Israel, however, has not succumbed to such a fate. Our enemies commit attack after attack — with the intent to kill, maim and demoralize us — yet we fight back, day after day, by uniting to save lives and create a society of coexistence, rather than of hate.

It is no secret that trauma can foster hate. Hate can be a natural reaction to suffering a traumatic event at the hands of another person. Therefore, the antidote to terror — and the mission of United Hatzalah — is not just to treat the victims of attacks, but to build up communities as well.

Our volunteers treat injured and sick people, regardless of who they are. Our Jewish medics often treat Arab patients, and vice versa; this is quite common in Israel. Our goal is to unite people from many different backgrounds, religions and socioeconomic groupings, and point them all to one main objective: saving lives and fostering the conditions for peace. In Israel, it is common to see EMTs and paramedics of different faiths train together, work together and respond together.

At United Hatzalah, many of our responses are community based. The idea behind this was to bring people of different backgrounds together in order to save lives and foster hope — not hate. With the proper training and medical equipment, “regular” people can become heroes in their own communities. Basic elements of training and response include 180 hours of formal in-class education and another 100 hours of response calls, as per the requirements set forth by Israel’s Ministry of Health. These in-depth courses provide the highest level of training to EMTs, so that each and every one can respond to a wide variety of emergencies and save lives on their own, if need be.

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Our heroes — those who leave their jobs, their families and personal lives to rush out at any given moment and save others — include Jews, Arabs, Druze, Bedouin and Christians. They hail from all different backgrounds, hold different beliefs and speak many languages. Together, they increase the resiliency of their communities in the face of tragedy. And when they all come together, as part of a national volunteer first response organization, they increase the resiliency of the whole country.

Many of the EMS  volunteers in Jerusalem, including many Arab volunteers, responded to the terrorist attack last Sunday. By bandaging wounds, providing psychological stabilization for those in shock and directing operations from our dispatch and command center, the EMTs, paramedics and doctors of United Hatzalah worked together with the Israel ambulance service, police, IDF response teams to help the victims, and then start the process of rebuilding.

We know that these attacks leave lasting marks on our society and on the people who suffer needlessly at the hands of terrorism, but we also know that not all injuries are physical. That is why in recent months we have placed an emphasis on helping the victims deal with psychological shock. The newly inaugurated Psychotrauma Unit, as we call it, treats shock victims, family members, eye-witnesses, bystanders and even our own EMS teams, and provides specialized stabilization treatments that involve engaging all of a person’s senses in order to bring them back to the here-and-now. This unit provides these people with psychological treatment as fast as possible. For the victims, the treatment takes place at the location of the trauma. For our EMS teams, the treatment takes place during a debriefing after the event. On Sunday, we held one of those debriefings.

Every terror scene is shocking — and every scene is different, and we need to help everyone, regardless of who they are, in order to minimize the damage done by those who wish to harm us as a unified people. Therefore, we must respond together — as a people. When a terrorist drives back and forth over their victims in order to cause more damage and more harm, they are also attempting to destroy our spirit, our hope and our resiliency. Our response must be to save as many lives as possible, to comfort one another and to rebuild together. While the terrorists attempt to shatter, destroy and kill, we continue to treat, to save, and to unify. And in that effort, we will be victorious.

Eli Beer is the president and founder of United Hatzalah.

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