by Dovid Landesman
This evening I had an experience that reinforced my sense of the singular quality of the Jewish community living in Eretz Yisrael. There is a unique familial relationship that this land can and often does evoke from its citizens. In place of the divisions along ethnic grounds or according to the level of religious commitment, I was privileged to witness an example of klal Yisrael at its finest hour of achdut. For a short period of time there were no barriers – just a group of brothers working together in perfect harmony.
The scenario: My son, who serves as a volunteer medic for Hatzalah and Magen David Adom, is also on call as member of a police unit responsible for search and rescue in the Judean hills. Tonight, as we were about to begin learning, he received a call from the police dispatcher informing him that a cyclist had fallen in Nachal Sorek, a popular trail that begins near Hadassah hospital and ends near Beit Shemesh.
The area where the cyclist was injured is accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, so we got into my son’s pick-up and set off. My son-in-law, a paramedic in the IDF, was also in the house and he came along to lend his considerable field experience in treating trauma patients. About 500 yards into the canyon, we saw a Magen David ambulance with no one inside. We surmised that the ambulance crew had determined that they could not safely drive their vehicle any further into the area and had therefore unloaded the equipment that they needed and had set out on foot to find the cyclist.
When we arrived on the scene, this is what we discovereed: a police jeep with two officers, two other members of my son’s volunteer rescue unit, a Magen David 4×4 ambulance dispatched from Hadassah hospital, two medics from the Israel Air Force’s famed 669 rescue unit who had rappeled down from their helicopter which was hovering overhead with its searchlight illuminating the area and two border policemen who had been dispatched as security when the air force unit was called in.
One of the police – a woman officer – was interviewing the family of the young man – a twenty year old yeshiva student – who was injured. The Magen David medic, a chassidishe avreich – was transferring command of the scene to the two soldiers of the air force who were more experienced medics with special training. He remained on hand to assist them along with a young female MDA volunteer. When my son-in-law told the soldiers that he was an army paramedic, they immediately deferred to him.
After an examination to ascertain the extent of his injuries, and after putting his badly broken arm into a sling, the young man was tied onto a stretcher. The helicopter could not land because of the nature of the area and could not descend lower than about 150 feet because of the winds in the canyon. A steel cable was sent down and the stretcher was securely fastened onto it. One of the air force medics secured himself to the cable as well and the signal was given to winch them up. The helicopter then flew off to Hadassah’s emergency room.
The police officer asked the injured young man’s father if he had a car in the area. When he was told that he did not, he ordered the border policemen to load the family’s bikes into the back of their pickup and bring them to the Beit Shemesh police station. He then told the father to get into his jeep so that he could drive him to the hospital.
When one opens an Israeli newspaper or listens to the news, one is convinced that we are on the brink of a civil war between chareidim and chilonim. Pass by a demonstration in Meah Sheraim or in Yaffo and you will hear epithets being hurled at the police and border patrol that are chilling and beyond belief. The malachei chabalah – angels of destruction – unleashed into this world are equal opportunity proponents who do not discriminate according to race, color or level of observance. How uplifting was it therefore to be witness to a joint effort that seemed so perfectly natural. Once again I can fall back into my default position of optimism that we can build a society together. Take a look down, mamma Rochel. Yesh tikvah l’achriteich.
Dovid Landesman resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he comments on the foibles of life in Zion. His new book, Food For Thought – No Hechsher Required, is scheduled for publication this winter.