"All the world is a
very narrow bridge,
and the most important thing
is not to fear at all.”
-Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
It is early in the morning when the news reports that a
rocket has hit Hadera, a coastal city 50 kilometers south of Haifa.
Previously, Haifa was beyond the reach of rockets fired from
the Gaza strip, but Hamas’ new R-160, also called the M-302, has placed Haifa
Foreign ambulance volunteers in Beersheba have already been pulled
out of their city. Others in Tel Aviv and Ra'anana have been sent into bomb
A handful of us ignore the request of our program
coordinator to stay in our accommodations. Instead, we head to the Magen David
Adom stations to work the morning shift on an ambulance.
At the Haifa station, there is a noticeable absence. The
teenagers that would normally be here are not because the security level has
been raised, prohibiting individuals under 18 from volunteering on the
At the station, the American and Canadian volunteers try to
follow the lead of the Israeli EMTs and act brave, cracking jokes and carrying
on, but we are obviously more on edge.
The ambulance team I am with for the morning receives it
first call. There has been a traffic accident during the rush-hour commute, a
low-speed collision between a hatchback and a motorcycle.
My phone keeps buzzing. Text messages are sent among
overseas volunteers checking in with one another. We ask each other if we have
been sent to bomb shelters or are working shifts. Some mention heading back
Our second call is to a 30-year-old female who is a recent
immigrant from Russia. She complains of chest pains, but can't describe it well
with her limited Hebrew. She does string together that she has barely slept the
Five more missiles are fired at Tel Aviv. All are
intercepted by the Iron Dome.
One of the National Service girls wants us to host a party
on Friday night. She offers to bring her older sister, but says it will not
work out if I return to the States and her sister is here. I offer to make
aliyah (move permanently to Israel).
A friend in Akko reports his ambulance is forced to leave a
call in a neighboring Arab village because of safety concerns, which he refers
to as "civil unrest,” a polite description for the demonstrations and
riots springing up around the country.
The third call is a transfer of an elderly Druze woman from
one hospital to another. Her husband also rides with us. The ride is quiet. She
is scheduled for heart surgery.
A paramedic reprimands a medic for talking politics in the
An email is sent out by our program coordinator requesting
that we notify her if we decide to leave the country.
Fourth call is a woman at a medical clinic with high blood
pressure. The medic cannot resist talking politics with her.
Back at the station, the television has been changed over
from the news to an Israeli comedy show in which a man fails to dance the
lambada with an attractive woman.
A medic is chastised for flirting with a volunteer because
the regional manger is showing inspectors around the station.
Someone reads aloud posts from her Facebook about Protective
Edge (the name of Israel’s military campaign to stop the Hamas rocket assault)
and de-friends people.
The bomb shelter in the station basement is cleared out.
We are assigned additional shifts over the weekend. A
paramedic jokes, "You foreigners like to volunteer when we have a
Two missiles fall in open fields to the north of Zikhron
Ya'akov, 35 kilometers south of Haifa.
We receive our fifth call, a 62-year-old Russian with a
prosthetic left-arm who fell and hit his head. He speaks to us in English. He
is an honorary citizen of the U.S. His son enlisted yesterday in the IDF and
says he has been posted in Gaza.
The medic tells the patient about Zikhron. He replies,
"Now Haifa is possible too." He thanks us when we get to the
The shift ends. Some volunteers stay to fill spots in the
afternoon shift. Others leave. An Israeli volunteer and I attempt to insert
I.V. needles into each other’s arms.
I take the bus back by myself to the Hadar neighborhood. I
am worried about the coming night and what it might bring.
I keep listening for sirens. None have sounded yet.
And if they do, I intend to be here in Israel to help in
every way that I can.