WHEN ROCKETS FALL, THE REALITY HITS HOME …
Having completed my undergraduate studies, I opted to take a year off from further studies. My aim was to not only to give myself an opportunity to travel abroad and experience new sights, customs and cultures, but also to give myself a much needed break from the stresses of assignments, tests and final exams.
During my time off, I aspired to become involved in volunteer work. I was seeking to do something worthwhile, where I was able to help people in need. I decided to partake in the Magen David Adom overseas volunteer program in Israel.
As I am looking to study medicine, this program was perfect for me, as it aligned with my interests as well as allowed me to gain an insight and some experience in the medical field, whilst positively impacting the community through helping others.
Despite my fears of working in a country where I did not speak the native language, I packed my bags and left for Israel.
After completing the 60-hour basic course, I began to volunteer at the Ramat Gan station. I still remember how nervous I was when we got the first call. We got in the ambulance and with sirens blazing; we raced to the patient’s house. We eventually transported the patient to the hospital and, during this time, I was asked to check for the patient’s pulse.
Hands shaking, I took the pulse and noticed the set of numbers that were tattooed onto her forearm. The patient was an Auschwitz survivor and, at that moment, it truly dawned on me the importance of what we were doing.
These people whom we were helping all have their own stories, with some having experienced extreme difficulties in life. They now relied upon MDA, upon myself, to help in their times of need, and we were there to offer our assistance as well as help improve their quality of life in some small manner.
From that point forward, I thoroughly enjoyed not only my shifts, but also my time in Israel. I met many new people, both patients and otherwise, experienced new foods, sights and lifestyles and, although I don’t speak Hebrew nor have a strong Jewish background, I still felt a sense of belonging and acceptance within this community.
My experience in Israel however, changed dramatically when the sirens began to blare. I’d heard of the rockets being launched in other parts of Israel, but it felt so surreal to me as I’d never faced or encountered this type of situation before in Australia. Seeing it on the news or reading about it the papers detracted from the reality of the situation and it always felt like these conflicts were happening a lifetime away and would never impact on my life.
However, when I heard the first sirens pierce the air of Tel Aviv, I was in shock. Seeing masses of people running for shelter was something I’d never seen before. Hearing the explosions from within the shelter and feeling how close they were, illustrated to me that what I once saw on the news and in the papers and which seemed so far away, was now happening to me. It was at this point that it really hit home – the reality of the situation I was currently involved in.
I received many calls and messages from my parents asking how the situation was in Israel, whether I was okay and whether I wanted to remain in Israel or whether I wanted to leave. Each time, they would ask that final question, my answer was always the same – I don’t want to leave. I came here to help the people of Israel, and I will continue to do so despite the risks that are involved.
My first shift during the sirens felt more intense than the others. Climbing into the ambulance and seeing the shrapnel proof vests and helmets was an unnerving sight to see. However, my driver remained calm and gave off an air of coolness that was infectious and settled all our nerves. That day, we had many calls and it showed that illness doesn’t rest, it doesn’t wait and it doesn’t stop for terrorist attacks. It’s constant and affects the lives of many people in Israel who depend upon MDA to help them. Therefore we need to be there for them, and I’ll continue to strive to do so despite the rockets and the dangers that are now involved.
When I first arrived in Israel, I didn’t expect to find myself involved in such an intense conflict that would directly affect my life. However, this experience has allowed me to learn a lot about myself, and is extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
I’m so happy that I’ve been given the opportunity to help the people of Israel in such a dire time of need.