By Vanessa Friedman
I wanted to start this week’s blog post with something light and funny like I always do, but I feel like it would be irresponsible not to touch on the terrorist attack that occurred in Israel on Wednesday. A bomb exploded near a bus stop at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, wounding 39 people and killing one person. It’s difficult to pin an emotion on the event; as is always the case with attacks in Israel, the country seems determined to continue on with life as usual. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was quoted in the Jerusalem Post saying that everyone must “return to your normal lives so that the terrorists don’t think they can win.” As Israeli as I try to be about the attack, I do feel somewhat unnerved.
But as Mayor Barkat requested, we return to our normal lives. What that means for this week’s blog is focusing on OTZMAnik Shoshana Tell, known affectionately around Haifa as both a future medical student and an avid Justin Bieber fan, and the volunteer work she’s doing.
Shoshana volunteers with Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical service, known in Israel as MADA. She also volunteers at the children’s hospital at Rambam Medical Center, and with the high school students at Ironi Aleph. Her heart really belongs to MADA, though.
Shoshana was set on volunteering with MADA since high school: “I heard about it and immediately knew I wanted to participate one day,” she said. “It seemed like an incredible way to practice my Hebrew, be exposed to Israeli culture, and above all, to give back…Israelis give two to three years of service to the country, and as a Jew I feel like it is my responsibility to serve Israel, too.” Luckily, both training and volunteering with MADA fit neatly into her OTZMA schedule, and she has been working with the medical service since right after Sukkot, first in Ashkelon and now in Haifa.
Both training and volunteering with MADA are intense; the training was a ten day program that provided physical skills and also instructions for symptoms and diagnosis. Shoshana explained that she uses the tool set she gained at training in her day to day work at MADA. One of the most interesting experiences Shoshana has had since volunteering was picking up Palestinian patients from Gaza and taking them to Israeli hospitals; MADA Ashkelon does this daily, and Shoshana accompanied the ambulance twice. Though (thankfully) her shifts farther north here in Haifa are actually quieter than the shifts she did in Ashkelon, she never minds when the station is calm. “Even when we don’t have calls, a non-busy shift is still very educational because of the people working with me; the Haifa station is very diverse and it’s really inspiring to hear everyone’s story.” The diversity of Haifa is what appeals most to Shoshana; she ascribes a homey feeling to the city, a comfort level that she does not experience elsewhere. “I love Haifa,” Shoshana said, happy and confident in her new home.
And so life in Israel continues, just like normal.