Subscribe to our Newsletter


click to dowload our latest edition

‘It’s a calling,’ say nurses on the frontline

Published

on

Featured Item

Before COVID-19, the World Health Organization declared 2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife to honour Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing and sanitation, who was born 200 years ago.

It’s a fitting tribute, considering nurses’ critical role as frontline workers at this historic time.

While Nightingale found herself on the frontline during the Crimean war, her legacy has had an impact on the lives of a handful of young Jewish nurses who are following in her footsteps at the coalface of a different enemy – the novel coronavirus.

Four such nurses told the SA Jewish Report nursing was a “calling” for them, and they want to make a difference. In response to the outbreak, they have put aside fear for themselves and their loved ones to answer a call to action.

“When people find out that I’m a trauma nurse in intensive-care, the common reaction is nose crinkling, followed by ‘Eeuw! You must see a lot of hectic stuff’. Yes, I do. But I also save lives and see a lot of miracles,” said Ricki-Lee Serebro.

Serebro, 26, is a registered nurse in the trauma intensive-care unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. All her patients are critically ill, many on the brink of death from gunshot wounds, car accidents, stabbings, failed suicide attempts, and falls.

“People associate nursing with wiping old men’s bums and bed baths, but there’s a whole lot more to it. You are literally holding life in your hands,” she said.

She has 12-hour shifts from 19:00, and it’s a stressful, demanding job. “I’m on my feet for 12 hours. There are moments of heartbreak, pain, and sadness. I do cry sometimes, it takes its toll, but when a patient on the brink of death makes it, there are no words to describe the joy at saving someone’s life.”

Many of her patients are heavily sedated or on ventilators, so pain control is crucial. “I rely on non-verbal cues for pain like a facial grimace or a high heart rate. The situation can change fairly quickly, so I need to be on my toes. As there are no family visits, my role is also to provide emotional care.”

COVID-19 has added a whole new dimension of stress.

“Many of my colleagues have tested positive, so it’s always at the back of my mind that I might be next, and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for 12 hours is tough. We now have a runner who fetches things like medicines because otherwise we would be doffing and donning our PPE several times a shift. This adds to staff shortages and overall stress,” she said.

Student nurse, Tali Nathan, 23, works the COVID-19 ward at Netcare Milpark Hospital.

“It was daunting in the early days of the pandemic. Everything was new and unchartered territory. I was initially freaked out about wearing PPE for 12 hours. Feeling for a vein wearing two pairs of gloves comes with its own set of challenges, but you adapt quickly,” she said.

Nathan loves the adrenalin, and there’s no hint of exhaustion after a long, busy shift. “I know it’s a cliché, but I genuinely love what I do. It’s an honour and a privilege to be needed during this dreadful time,” she said. However, it’s never easy.

“Recently, a sweet elderly patient asked me for a new bar of soap during a bed bath which I said I would buy her. When I went back on shift two days later, she had passed away. I still carry her soap in my bag.

“Even though we have learnt so much about treating COVID-19, and the recovery rate is high, some days are frustrating because there’s only so much you can do. There is no cure or pill or textbook for this.”

Both women strip down completely when they get home after a long shift, and head for the shower to decontaminate before doing anything else. Then they eat, relax, and sleep for a long time until their next shift. Family and friends are a vital support.

Mother of three, Lara Kaplan, 29, is a registered nurse and midwife who runs a private mobile baby clinic. She spent many years in public hospitals where, in spite of the high incidence of HIV, Tuberculosis and things like gunshot wounds, she chose nursing over becoming a medical doctor, never looking back.

“There is a part of me that knows this is what I’m meant to be doing,” she said.

Having had a baby at the start of the pandemic eight months ago, she empathises with her patients, many of them anxious and stressed.

“It’s a scary time for new moms bringing life into this pandemic. I walk into a room suited up with mask, visor, and gloves, and it’s hard to engage, it’s alienating, there are no cuddles, there are no toys, even my smile is hidden. Things have changed. It’s an intense time.”

Third-year nursing student Natanya Joseph, 22, is practising midwifery, and moves between the Hillbrow Clinic and Charlotte Maxeke.

People are shocked when she tells them she is studying to become a nurse.

“They say, ‘That’s not a degree for a nice Jewish girl in South Africa’, but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” Joseph said.

Working in the public sector has exposed her to the harsh reality of public-healthcare in the country. “It has opened my eyes, and taught me so much,” she said.

She recalls a mom giving birth to a stillborn baby after being in labour for 16 hours.

“There was nothing I could do to take her pain away. I just had to be there, hold her hand, and listen. Doctors make patients better, nurses make patients matter, more so now when visitors aren’t allowed. Nurses become the patient’s family on their worst and best days. Nursing has taught me what it means to appreciate each breath you take, the importance of taking care of your body, the impact of visiting the sick, and how to love another as yourself – true Jewish values.”

As of 4 August 2020, 240 healthcare workers have died due to COVID-19 and 27 360 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus. Nurses made up the majority of cases, accounting for 52%.

Like the Lady of the Lamp before them, they are spreading light during this dark time, united by a desire to help where help is needed.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Item

SA government and politicians show bias as Israel conflict escalates

Published

on

As Israel faced a steady bombardment of deadly rockets fired by terrorist groups in Gaza this week, the South African government, politicians, and activists condemned the Jewish state, ignoring the myriad complexities of the violence.

And as Hamas escalated its barrage of rockets targeting innocent civilians, to which Israel retaliated, there has been no condemnation of Hamas from either the South African government or any of its politicians.

Israel’s right to defend itself and diffuse tensions in a bid to save the lives of all its citizens including Jews, Muslims, and Christians, hasn’t been acknowledged by the government in its condemnation of the Jewish state.

Siding wholly with the Palestinians, the government earlier this week expressed its “deep concern at the continued clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque wherein Israeli soldiers attacked Palestinian worshippers while praying at the holy site”.

The Economic Freedom Fighters said it noted “the genocide” committed by Israel against the Palestinian people during Ramadan, saying “We condemn with contempt the violence perpetrated by the apartheid Israeli state on unarmed Palestinian people.” It called on the government to close down the South African embassy in Israel and recall all its representatives there.

No mention has been made about Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque stockpiling rocks, fireworks, and stone slabs around the site in preparation for violence and attacking Israeli police.

Focusing all its attention on the land dispute and potential eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, the government ignored a multitude of issues that have contributed to the rising wave of violence since April.

The department of international relations and cooperation (DIRCO) issued a statement saying, “The South African government strongly condemns the attacks and planned evictions of Palestinians from annexed East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements.

“It’s perplexing that during these unprecedented times, as the international community addresses the global challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel is exploiting the situation to advance its de facto annexation of Palestinian land. These acts aren’t only illegal but also risk undermining the viability of a negotiated two-state solution and will have negative consequences on the entire peace process.”

In response to this, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) called on the government, all political parties, and the media to show “even-handedness” and acknowledge the complexity of the situation.

In a joint statement, SAJBD National Chairperson Wendy Kahn and SAZF Chairperson Rowan Polovin, said, “In their determination to condemn Israel come what may, the government has reversed cause and effect. The reality – and not for the first time – is that the initial clashes were deliberately orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership and have now culminated in a lethal barrage of missile fire on Jerusalem and other heavily populated cities.

“Rockets are indiscriminate. They imperil the lives of all who live in the Holy City, whether Jew, Christian, or Muslim. In spite of this, the South African government has chosen to single out Israel for exclusive condemnation, disregarding completely the more than 1 200 deadly rockets fired thus far against Israeli civilians.

“The double standards don’t stop there. Whereas countries throughout the world sent condolences to Israel following the tragic loss of 45 lives in Meron, South Africa has yet to follow suit even two weeks later. However, within 24 hours, it was able to issue a statement condemning Israel.

“If the government, and indeed all political parties, wish to be part of ending this latest tragic outburst of violence, they must show genuine even-handedness. Those who unquestioningly endorse the claims and actions of one side while completely ignoring those of the other do nothing to resolve the conflict. In fact, they only make a bad situation worse.”

They went on to say that demonising Israel, as was the case with certain statements, was “irresponsible, inflammatory, and dangerous”.

The Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan, told the SA Jewish Report that no country in the world would tolerate this level of terror.

He has called on the international community and South Africa to condemn the rocket fire and Palestinian terrorism targeting Israeli citizens in the “strongest manner”, as well as to support Israel’s right to self-defence.

Keinan said that these events were part of a “wave of terror” that was being led by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and were the result of “reckless and irresponsible incitement to violence”.

Concerning earlier violence, he said, “Israel sought to achieve calm in Jerusalem. We took every measure to prevent conflict or violence and to allow freedom of worship. These measures include postponing the Supreme Court hearing regarding Sheikh Jarrah, blocking Jews from visiting the Temple Mount, changing the route of the flag march, and then cancelling the event. Moreover, Israel acted in a measured manner in response to the rockets and incendiary balloons that had been launched from the Gaza Strip to prevent any escalation during this sensitive period.”

He said responsibility for the situation rested completely with Palestinian terrorist organisations and “on the unrestrained incitement by the Palestinian Authority”.

“No country will allow rockets to be fired on its children, women, and men. Israel will take any action necessary to protect its citizens. It’s the right and the duty of every state.”

Meanwhile, small protests were held by pro-Palestinian groups at the Israel Trade Offices in Sandton, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, all of which blamed Israel for being solely responsible for the violence.

Interestingly, in an open letter to DIRCO Minister Naledi Pandor, the South African BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Coalition said it was “extremely disappointed” by DIRCO’s statement about the conflict, calling for more action by the government.

The Democratic Alliance said Israel must “employ maximum restraint in the use of force” adding “violence from both sides must cease in the interest of peace, saving lives, and protecting the human rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian people”.

Dr Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus said, “The ANC government has never tried to hide its hostility towards Israel, and has now once again chosen the terrorist side in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It’s time for the ANC to honour Israel’s sovereignty.

“It’s lamentable that the South African government is always so quick to side with Israel’s opponents and condemn the country,” he said.

In Cape Town, a protest organised by Africa4Palestine (formerly BDS SA), brought a number of anti-Israel groups together. But only about 200 members of the public gathered to condemn Israel, many of them children.

Speaking in front of parliament, the late Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela called for the closure of the South African embassy in Israel. “We are clearly asking South Africa not to downgrade its embassy in Israel, but to close it down!” he shouted to cheers from the crowd. “We also want to deny [Israeli international carrier] El Al from coming into South Africa!” he said to more cheers of support.

He called for South Africans to “boycott products from apartheid Israel. The only thing we expect from our government is to place sanctions on apartheid Israel!” He then called on the crowd to join him on 18 July in Pretoria (the date marked to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s legacy) outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. “We want to see it shut down and for the ambassador to leave. We won’t compromise,” Mandela said.

Continue Reading

Featured Item

Rise in anti-Israel sentiment leads to calls for vigilance

Published

on

The Community Security Organisation (CSO) has witnessed a marked increase in anti-Israel rhetoric as well as expressions of hate directed at Jews online following violence in Israel, and has appealed to the community to be extra vigilant and report all incidents.

Jevon Greenblatt, the director of CSO Johannesburg, told the SA Jewish Report on 12 May that tension in Israel had escalated dramatically over the past few days, with levels of open conflict growing exponentially over the past 48 hours.

“It’s not uncommon for anti-Israel anger around a situation like this to spill over into diaspora Jewish communities,” he said.

“Since Monday, we have seen a significant increase in concerning online rhetoric and numerous protest action called for over the coming days across South Africa.

“We are seeing a huge campaign by the anti-Israel lobby to dehumanise Israel with massive distortions about what’s really happening on the ground.”

Political leaders, social-media influencers, and celebrities are lending their voices to the pro-Palestinian lobby.

“This creates the perfect environment for a potential lone-wolf actor to carry out an attack. Whenever something like this takes place, our concern is that the anger created can be misdirected against the local community.”

He said that while CSO staff and volunteers were working hard to ensure the continued safety and security of the community, it was a “collective effort”.

“Vigilance is crucial. We should always make sure our facilities are as secure as possible, and we should always be doing the best we can to strengthen our security.

“It’s at times like this that we are reminded always to implement the best safety protocols because the threat is always out there.

“It requires the active participation of all community members. We ask you to maintain heightened awareness and report any emergency, potential threats, suspicious activity, or antisemitism related to the Jewish community or Jewish facilities to the CSO on 086 18 000 18 (or 086 18 911 18 in Cape Town).”

Continue Reading

Featured Item

Guarding Jerusalem from the “end of the end” of Israel

Published

on

The Golan is the true gatekeeper of Jerusalem, particularly in mitigating against the Iranian threat across the border, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Major (Res) Yaakov Selevan said during a talk to commemorate Yom Yerushalayim this week.

“People who live in the Golan claim that it’s the most naturally beautiful region in Israel. But they aren’t living here for the views; they are here because there is something for which they’re willing to die – the redemption of the heart of the Jewish people.”

Selevan, a Jerusalem born-and-bred military official who now works as a tour guide and public speaker, was hosted for the webinar by Mizrachi SA and the South African Zionist Federation, in collaboration with other partners.

Although Selevan grew up with “the Western Wall as my backyard”, he now lives with his wife and three daughters in the Golan. Over the years, he has come to realise how deeply intertwined the fates of these two Israeli regions are.

Logistically, the Golan has always been a key strategic point, both in its proximity to neighbouring countries and major water sources, including the Sea of Galilee. Politically, its significance is even greater.

Even in the Roman era, when Roman soldiers were unable to penetrate the Jewish resistance in Jerusalem, they elected to try and attack from the periphery and move down. At the time, the Golan was rich in Jewish life with more than 30 synagogues. In the year 67, in spite of the efforts of Jewish revolutionaries, after a number of attempts, the Romans did overtake the ancient city of Gamla in the Golan. “They killed more than 4 000 Jews. Jewish independence fell, and then the Romans started moving down towards the heart of the land – Jerusalem. Three years later, we know, the second temple was destroyed.”

Fast forward thousands of years, when the Golan was redeemed from Syrian control by the IDF in the 1967 war, a number of fascinating ancient Jewish artefacts were found. The most striking of which was an ancient coin from the era of the Jewish revolt against Roman control. Engraved in Hebrew, its inscription reads “for the redemption of Jerusalem, the holy”.

In the modern political landscape, the Golan remains a contested hotspot particularly in relation to Iran and its ongoing incursions into the borderlands of Lebanon and Syria.

Selevan said that for many years, Iran had also used Israel and Jews symbolically as a strategy to forge allegiances across Muslim and Arab states that otherwise would be divided across Sunni and Shiite ethnic lines. These distinctions are derived from a dispute over the line of succession after Muhammed.

After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, “Iran wanted to ‘export the revolution’, and it realised it had a problem. While they were Shiites, most of the people around them were Sunni.” So, said Selevan, they chose a “common interest – the holy city of Jerusalem. Who controls the old city of Jerusalem? The filthy Zionists.” Moreover, as enemies across the Arab world sought ways to attack Israel, they turned to Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran.

Iran remains a threat to Israel on a number of levels, Selevan said. The first is its nuclear programme; the second its Precision Guided Munitions project, which designs missiles that use GPS to hit specific targets. Third, is its political take over and proxy power in various countries like Lebanon and Yemen. The next key territory which Iran is looking to control in the region is Syria, itself riddled by a civil war that has been appropriated by a myriad of interests.

In Lebanon, Iran controls networks of tunnels and occupied villages where local people are being used as human shields and whose homes are utilised for the storage of missiles and rockets. It hopes to use the chaos in Syria to take over using a similar model.

However, along with military action, Israel has made huge inroads diplomatically to prevent this, Selevan said.

“Iran used us and Jerusalem as a common interest, a common enemy, and a step in the door to the Sunni world. However, in the past few years, with what’s happening just here in Syria, people in the region are seeing what the Iranians are doing and how they’re taking over this region. They realise that they are next in line: Saudi Arabia, even Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, all these countries said, ‘Oh my G-d, all these years, we thought the Jews were the problem. Now we understand the greatest threat is the Shiites. Who can help us against the Shiites? The Jews!’”

Israel has thus turned Iran into the common interest which is “our step in the door of the Muslim world”. The most recent result is the Abraham Accords peace agreements, said Selevan.

Israel has another way in which it continues to forge towards peace – humanitarian aid.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Israel has helped, offering medical services and distributing food, clothing, and other products for basic needs, proving, “you can stop Iran with baby diapers”.

At its core, the motivation for the action is humanitarian, said Selevan. “We did it because we’re Jewish; we cannot stand by when we see people suffering.”

Nevertheless, it also had an impact on political engagement. Terror groups, such as those under Iranian control, are reliant on local populations for support, access to land, and soldiers. As Israel continues to reach out to her neighbours, “there’s a whole generation growing up in Syria knowing that we’re not the devil”.

Although this doesn’t mean there aren’t still many who are against Israel and are manipulating the aid system, nevertheless there are shifts. For Selevan, this is encompassed by a drawing made by a seven-year-old Syrian Muslim girl. Her portrait of the Israel flag, captioned in Arabic, thanks the Israeli who saved her life.

In spite of the huge upswing of attacks on Israel in recent days, Selevan said he was hopeful. His life in the Golan is a contract between him, his country, and his community.

“I’m here at the end of the end of the end of the country because someone needs to be here, because my community is the greatest answer to the Iranian threat. That’s my purpose. That’s my essence.” Holding out a replica of the Jewish-revolt-era coin, Selevan asserted, “Each and every one of us needs to ask ourselves: what’s my job in the redemption of Jerusalem?”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Naale Elite Academy

Trending