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Op-eds

Making a young boy’s dreams come true…

  • BenitaLevin
Every little boy wants to be a fireman when he grows up, doesn’t he? In the “old” days there seemed to be aspirations for boys to become doctors, lawyers or chartered accountants. Today it’s probably more about being in IT or having your own high-tech business?
by BENITA LEVIN | Jul 06, 2017

Our 10-year-old has wanted to be a paramedic - and a chazzan - for as long he can remember. Both choices that have admittedly taken the rest of us by surprise, but the passion he has for both are inspiring. (He is in “charge” of the emergency medical kits at home and on any holiday, and last year in South Africa he asked his primary school headmaster to allow all the children in his grade to attend first aid courses with Hatzolah Medical Rescue team in Johannesburg.)

This year, as new olim, our young “resident paramedic-in-waiting”, asked if he could spend his birthday visiting the headquarters of United Hatzalah of Israel, in Jerusalem. We’d joked that he was more excited about this pending trip, than most boys would be to visit Disneyland or watch a Premier League soccer game.

For him, it was a dream come true. But we had no idea the impact this birthday visit would have…

We were met at the offices in a bustling part of Jerusalem by the enigmatic and energetic Shai Jaskoll, who took us into a boardroom to show us presentations about the emergency rescue organisation.

Shai explained how United Hatzalah began, and our (now) young wide-eyed 11-year-old, started finishing his sentences. Unbeknown to us, he had already watched all the organisation’s online YouTube videos and was surprisingly very well-versed in the remarkable story of its founder, Eli Beer.

So, you can only imagine, what it would have been like for him then to hear that his hero was in fact, in the building. We were taken to the operations centre, filled with volunteers who monitor highways on screens in front of them, take in emergency calls and assign direct rescue teams to emergency scenes.

The technology involved might make many feel like they were on a James Bond movie set.

We were told paramedics usually arrive at the scene on their bikes before ambulances can get through traffic. The planned time it takes to respond to an emergency call? Ninety seconds. The pressure these controllers work under is remarkable. A whole room full of calm, highly-trained volunteer lifesavers, helping anyone - of any religion - in an emergency.

As we left the operations centre, there he was. Shai introduced us to the humble and affable Eli Beer, who seemed visibly moved when he heard about his young fan. He held his head in his two hands and kissed him on the forehead.

And just when the birthday experience couldn’t get any better, by sheer coincidence American singer Benny Friedman was also on a tour of the premises. (Our son had been to hear him sing during his last concert in South Africa and now Benny Friedman was singing happy birthday to him in Jerusalem!) The birthday experience? Unforgettable.

As we went to look at the array of rescue bikes outside, we were introduced to identical twins Shlomo and Eliezer Brandmark, from the rescue team. Two unassuming, animated-looking men, in black pants, white shirts and black yarmulkes, who between them are on call every day, 365 days a year, including Shabbat and chaggim.

Their faces light up as they speak about the most fulfilling part of their work - when you walk past a person in the street and recognise them as a patient you’ve attended to at an accident scene. “When they have no idea that you have helped save their life, that is the best feeling.”

This unforgettable “birthday visit” has inspired an already keen future paramedic to follow in the footsteps of these unsung heroes. Now that is a true gift…

Word of the week - “Chabibi” - slang for “my friend”.

New phrase of the week -“Loh Echpat Li” - It does not worry me, (usually said while shrugging one’s shoulders).

Smile of the week - Meeting a woman who made aliyah from India, 20 years ago. She advised me to not only eat in Israeli restaurants, assuring me that the Indian cuisine here is even better than in Durban!

 

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