"I am definitely gaining more than I am giving"

  • Feldman Ben
Volunteering for MDA during Operation Protective Edge – Ben Feldman, a 19-year-old South African lad, tells of his experience. And, with another 3 Israeli soldiers reported dead today and countless injured, with civilians traumatised and injured and the normal day-to-day activity of MDA taking place amidst it all – Ben really is in the thick of it. But when one reads his story, one feels the resilience that makes SA Jewry so very special indeed. This is a great read…
by BEN FELDMAN | Jul 23, 2014

This Joburg lad really landed in the thick of it

I had been working as a volunteer for MDA for a few weeks when the war broke out. My first encounter with Operation Protective Edge started when I was handed a bulletproof vest. Just like any other person living in Israel, we were somewhat sceptical as we considered the war to be one that would be contained in the South. 

Regrettably, a few hours later, while running to a bomb shelter, we all had a change of heart.

As a young Jewish boy, living in the enclosed ghetto of Glenhazel, war is an abstract concept, a concept that I did not fully understand until the Iron Dome intercepted the first rocket headed for Tel Aviv.

Suddenly, it was a new ball game

Overnight my volunteering experience was drastically altered. We were called in and asked to pick up extra shifts; we were taught what to do in case of a terrorist attack, and what to do if the siren goes off when you are helping a patient.

clickathon-square-ad final newRIGHT: Join the dozens of SAJR readers and users who are donating funds to keep MDA operational

However, my experience still paled in comparison to my friends on Beer Sheva, who were transferred out of the area due to the escalating danger, to my friends in Jerusalem who spent their nights treating wounded Arabs and Jews from revenge attacks, and to my friend in Carmiel, who couldn’t help a patient in an Arab village, because people were shooting at his ambulance.

However, as unbelievable as these stories are, there are also stories on the other side of the spectrum. On one of my earlier shifts volunteering for MDA, I was with an Arab driver and a secular medic that had just finished his Army service. Tensions were high, as the three young teenagers had just been discovered murdered. Our first call was a young religious Jewish man who had stopped breathing. Suddenly in-between connecting the oxygen tank, and starting compressions, the tension was dissipated and redirected. 

We all connected through a common goal, to save a life. We worked together as a team and transported him successfully to the hospital where he could be treated.

Feldman Ben2Afterwards, we all sat down (eating a shwarma) and discussed our joint fears that this war would escalate.

Left: Ben, middle, with fellow-volunteers

A friend of mine made a passing comment to me to the effect of “ I didn’t realise how friendly people from Gaza can be!” After pushing the subject further I discovered that she had transferred an Arab woman from Gaza, and had spent the entire trip discussing fashion, life in Miami, and how difficult it is for elderly women to learn how to use new technology.

MDA has taught me unbelievable lessons. Lessons about equality, compassion, and value of human life. I am hoping to continue with my studies in Israel and see volunteering for the MDA as something that I will be able to contribute to our precious country and to myself on an ongoing basis, as I am definitely gaining more than I am giving.


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