Arab and Jewish Cooperation Leading to Improved Emergency Medical Response in the Negev and Galilee

Recently, Israeli press outlets covered the story of Danny Gur, a Jewish EMT who treated a Palestinian car accident victim in Gush Etzion. A while back, the story of the lone Jewish EMT who treats both Jews and Arabs in East Jerusalem, Joshua Wander, caught the eye of the media both in Israel and abroad. And now, emergency medical services are once again bridging the gap between the two peoples that call this country their home.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister and Minister of the Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee Aryeh Deri together with United Hatzalah and Alumni of the Wexner Foundation for the Propagation of Excellence in the Public Sector, inaugurated a special project that will result in an improved emergency medical response time as well as create bonds of camaraderie between Arabs and Jews in the Negev and Galilee. The inauguration ceremony took place in the town of Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam at the regional headquarters. As part of the project, 330 new EMTs, both Jewish and Arab, will be trained to provide emergency medical response under the auspices of United Hatzalah.

Minister Deri with EMTs at the inauguration ceremony of the new EMT project at Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam
Minister Deri with EMTs at the inauguration ceremony of the new EMT project at Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam

Minister Deri said during the event that “Our goal is to place a medical responder in each locale. Every town and city should have a medical responder available nearby for anyone in need. We know that there is a difference between arriving at the scene in 90 seconds, in three minutes or in five minutes. Every minute is a matter of life and death, and this project will result in more lives being saved.”

The Director of United Hatzalah Moshe Teitelbaum added to the Minister’s comments and said “With the help of the Ministry of the Development of the Periphery, we are aiming to add 330 new volunteers in more than 30 locations across these areas of the country. Sadly, in these areas, it can take ambulances a long time to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency. Meanwhile, during that crucial time, a volunteer EMT can arrive with all of the proper medical equipment necessaries and begin lifesaving treatment.

The Mayor of the Shibli-Umm Al-Ghannam Regional Council, Naim Shibli, also added that “There is terrific cooperation between Arabs and Jews who go out to save lives and provide medical treatment to anyone who needs it free of charge. I am very happy to be part of such a project.”

Jews and Arabs conversing during the inauguration at Shibli
Jews and Arabs conversing during the inauguration at Shibli

Thanks to the support of the Ministry, dozens of EMTs have just completed their EMT training course and participated in the inauguration on Tuesday. These EMTs include both Jewish and Arab volunteers, who will now provide emergency medical response in the peripheral areas of the Galilee and the Negev. They will be joined by another 330 EMTs who will be trained in the near future to provide faster and more comprehensive medical responses in those areas.

The graduated EMTs were presented with medical kits by United Hatzalah during the ceremony and a new course began aimed at continuing to increase the number of responders in the Galilee. Currently, EMS response time throughout the country stands at an average of three minutes, thanks to the passion of United Hatzalah’s 3,000 volunteers who remain on call 24/7. With projects like this, supported by the government, the hope is to reach a 90 second response time across the country, which would give Israel the fastest EMS response time in the world. Achieving that, while building cooperative projects for Jews and Arabs through lifesaving, may indeed be the bedrock of bringing peace to the hostilities in our home country.

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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