NEWS: ISRAEL

Within Range

"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 within range.

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 shelters.

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 ambulances.

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 home.

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 night before.

 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 hospital.

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 war."

 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 hospital.

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.

Posted: 7/11/2014 3:52:44 PM
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