How Losing My Parking Spot on Shabbat Caused Me To Reflect On How Amazing Israeli Society Is

In my last blog, I wrote about things I thought I would never do that I am now doing because I am a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT. So here’s another one to add to the list. Driving on Shabbat is not something I ever thought I would be doing. So I move to Israel and I end up doing it all too frequently, unfortunately, both in the army and as a volunteer EMT first responder. Both are permissible in their own ways and both have a myriad of Halachik implications that must be followed to not desecrate Shabbat unnecessarily. Some of those rules include setting up your car before Shabbat to have everything turn on at once, or not turn on at all so as to limit the amount of desecration that will be caused by driving to the scene of an emergency.  

Myself and two other EMTs rushing to a call. (Illustration)

So there I am visiting a friend in Jerusalem this past Shabbat together with my wife and son. We are all sitting around the living room eating desert prior to Birkat Hamazon when my wife asks me to change my son’s diaper. I get off the couch, pick up my son and take him into the bedroom. I’ve gotten half of the diaper off and the siren sounds on my phone alerting me to an emergency nearby. I call to my wife from the bedroom asking her to take over. She begrudgingly comes. Nobody likes changing dirty diapers, and it really was my turn. Saved by the siren I guess…

I rush out the door and up the block to where I parked. I get in the car, pull a U-turn and head over to the scene of what was called as an unconscious person, who in all likeliness needs CPR. I get to the scene and am joined by other medical first responders who also gave up their Shabbat lunches or naps to rush out and help another person.

Luckily, the person was conscious and no CPR was needed. However, he was certainly in need of medical attention, which we provided. When the scene was wrapped up, (some 10 minutes after it began) and the person was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I turned my car around and headed home, there to await the next emergency should it occur on Shabbat as well.

When I returned, I came to the same place I had just left about 15 minutes prior, to my amazement I see that not only has my parking spot been taken but so has the empty one in front of where I had parked originally. I ended up parking in a very tight spot across the street.

In the realms of expecting the unexpected, this certainly takes the cake. Granted this story took place in the mixed neighborhood of Katamon and not Meah Shearim or Geulah, but still, I was not expecting my parking spot to be taken on Shabbat. I am judging the person favorably and expect they were returning from an emergency of their own. So I chalk it up to the oddities that surround the life of a volunteer EMT. As I returned back to the meal, happy to see my smiling son and wife, who were interacting with our hosts and the other guests, I smile and think to myself, I hate the idea of breaking Shabbat, but I love the idea that so many wonderful people who are filled with loving-kindness are willing to put their own lives on hold to help others, and how lucky we are to live in a society where even the most sanctified of days is put on hold to help others. I smile a second time and think that should an emergency happen to one of the people around me, whom I love dearly, I know that help will arrive, and a lot of it, within less than three minutes.     

About the Author
Raphael Poch is a Canadian-Israeli playwright, producer, director, actor and journalist. He is the International Media Spokesperson for United Hatzalah and runs the First City Improv Troupe.
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