A lot of news sources reported on the violence and the traffic that transpired during the Ethiopian protests across Israel yesterday. The protests caused a lot of difficulty for many people around the country as major thoroughfares were blocked by protesters who wanted their voices heard. Some of the protests turned violent with damage being done to police and EMS vehicles. Others, like the one near Beit Shemesh on Highway 38 remained non-violent. It was during this protest and the traffic problems that resulted that two inspiring stories depicting the kindness of our society transpired.
The groom (Center) with Tzachi Buchbot (far right) Itamar Amsalem (2nd from right) another United Hatzalah volunteer (left) who assisted in bringing the couple and their guests to the wedding
Motorists on Highway 38 waited for close to six hours without moving. Most turned off their cars to save gasoline. And while the wait was annoying and inconvenient for some, for others it almost turned into a catastrophic tragedy.
One family who was stuck in traffic on Highway 38 had three children in the back of their car and had run out of water and food. The two older children in the back seat were complaining that they were thirsty for a long time. In addition, the family had a 5-month-old infant with a heart murmur who desperately needed her medication and formula as she had not eaten for many hours. As the hours ticked by, the parents began to panic. Seeing no end in sight to the protest or the resulting traffic jam, the parents called United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command center requesting help.
The volunteer who answered the phone set in motion a series of events that brought relief to the family within minutes. United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Shlomi Polishuk in Beit Shemesh who lives near the intersection with Highway 38, was called and instructed to prepare a package of water, medicine, formula, and food. Polishuk quickly gathered the required items and headed out to the area closest to the protest that he could arrive at by car. While that was happening, the dispatch center contacted EMT ambucycle driver Tzachi Buchbot who also lives in Beit Shemesh but was assisting people stuck in the traffic and told him to meet Polishuk at the specified location. Buchbot raced over to the meeting point took the package and then brought it to the family in need at no charge. He gave the thankful parents his personal cell phone number and told them that if they needed anything else they should not hesitate to call.
Buchbot then proceeded to weave through the crowd to see if anyone else needed assistance. After just a few moments he was flagged down by a man who was looking forlorn and desperate. “My Fiance and I are late for our own wedding,” explained the man. “Our Chuppah was supposed to have been more than 2 hours ago,” he told Buchbot.
Buchbot, called United Hatzalah EMT Itamar Amsalem who drives one of the organization’s ATVs that is located in Beit Shemesh. He sent his location via WhatsApp and a few minutes later, Amsalem arrived with his ATV and took the couple via off-road paths to the wedding hall. When the couple arrived at the hall they saw that it was empty. Their guests were also all stuck in the traffic. Amsalem left the couple to prepare and headed back to the traffic jam. together with Buchbot and other ambucycle volunteers, they went car to car asking people if they were guests of the wedding and transporting them in small groups with the ATV to the wedding hall. The Chuppah started just before midnight.
Scene of the Chuppah just before midnight
In an interview with Israeli news reporters from Yediot Acharonot, the groom said: “This wasn’t an easy night by any means. My wife was crying the entire time. I don’t wish this on anyone on their wedding day. While I don’t blame the Ethiopians for protesting, I believe that more could have been done by the police to control the situation and allow people to pass.”
“When you come down to it, we are all family,” said Buchbot after the incident. “I am here tonight to help others. I volunteer and help others all the time, today was just a different style of help. I am happy to do it and I am glad that I can be a small part of an organization who is dedicated to doing exactly this, without worrying about cost or reimbursement. When people need help, we are there to help them.”