Yasmeen Mazzawi, MDA paramedic from Nazareth, lights cauldron in nationally televised Israeli Independence Day commemoration

Posted By: Rob Rosenthal AFMDA April 28, 2020

Jerusalem (April 28, 2020)
— In a nationally televised Israeli Independence Day commemoration that was seemingly less celebratory amid the country’s coronavirus lockdown, a Magen David Adom paramedic chosen to light one of the event’s cauldron became a metaphorical source of light herself.

Yasmeen Mazzawi, a 21-year-old from Nazareth, has become a point of pride for Israel’s Arab community and, to her own surprise, a role model for young girls across the country.

“The mother of a baby who I intubated and had to ventilate on the way to the hospital months ago [and who’s since recovered] called me several days ago to tell me how proud she was of me to be lighting the candle,” she says. “The reaction brought tears to my eyes.”

For her colleagues at MDA, she’s also validation for the organization, which has been at the front lines in the country’s efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

For Yasmeen, the ceremony provided a respite from grueling 12-hour shifts aboard a Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulance treating coronavirus patients. Yasmeen and her colleagues appear to be succeeding, as Israel last week reported for the first time that the country’s new Covid cases were surpassed by the number of patients newly declared as recovered.

“It was such an honor to light the candle,” she says, a distinction she first learned about two weeks ago during an emotional video conference with Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev.

It also marks the latest stop on a journey that began when Yasmeen became a youth volunteer with MDA at 14 to fulfill her bagrut requirements, the Israeli equivalent of a high school diploma.

At the time, just seven years ago, few Arab teens chose Magen David Adom to fulfill their volunteer public-service requirements, she said. But the organization’s mission of helping people in their greatest time of need appealed to her. It was a life-changing experience.

Her youth volunteer work also provided her with an opportunity to travel with MDA to Poland to visit the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps, providing her with insights about the Holocaust and historic events that so powerfully shape Israel to this day.

“Going there was so much more powerful than anything you could experience by reading about it in history books,” she says. Her decision to go on the trip was criticized by some members of the Arab community. But her parents urged her to go.

“They told me, ‘You have to make the change, lower the barriers between different people, and get them to know the other.’”

Today, one of the joys of working with Magen David Adom, she says, is the camaraderie between Israelis of all backgrounds.

“When I was in paramedic training, my closest colleagues were a religious Muslim and an Orthodox Jew,” she says. “I always say that Magen David Adom is my second home and everyone I work with feels like family. It’s as if we grew up together.”

After today’s ceremony, it’s back on the ambulance and once again treating coronavirus patients — and other sick or injured people.

“Everyone [at MDA] is working hard and doing very intense work,” she says. “We encounter corona patients every day. It’s not easy and sometimes it’s frightening, but it’s the task we’ve got to do — and we’ll do it until the job is done.”