While matchmaking is not a priority in the world of emergency medical services, quite a few volunteer first responders in multi-gender services in Israel have met their bashert on the job and grown closer in their relationships while saving lives together on emergency calls.
Dov and Racheli were taking care of a patient when the first met: Racheli as an EMT for her Israel national service at Shaarei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem and Dov as a paramedic with Magen David Adom. After the couple began to date, they were called to the scene of a bad car accident, where they worked alongside firefighters. Standing over the car, watching while the firefighters cut open the vehicle to extricate the victim, Yossi proposed.
“You see,” he said to Racheli, “life can be very short, so maybe we can go marry now?”
“That’s the life of a paramedic,” said Dov Maisel, who later co-founded United Hatzalah in 2006 with his best friend, Eli Beer. “At least, it was an original proposal,” he quipped. He’s now married to Racheli, a volunteer EMT for Hatzalah.
On contemplating some of the noteworthy situations they’ve shared on the job, Racheli said: “We once delivered a baby together that wasn’t ours. It was a very interesting date night.”
Still, the ability for couples to save lives together is no joke.
“One of the wonderful things about our model is that it allows our volunteers to maintain their regular lives at work,” explained Beer, who in addition to co-founding United Hatzalah serves as its president. “There is no need for long shifts or extended time given by the volunteers. This allows couples to respond to calls often together without having to worry about an extended period of time away from the home.
“Many people have taken advantage of this and either convinced their spouses to join the organization or even met people through their volunteering, and created a family based on their mutually shared ideals,” he told JNS.
Beer added that while the organization certainly is not a matchmaking service, “we are happy to include spouses, loved ones and couples within our family of first-response volunteers. This is especially true when these couples want to work together to make their communities safer for everyone.”
Indeed, working together makes many couples better first responders. “We go back home and talk about the call, and talk about what we can do better next time,” said Dov.
These experiences also strengthen their own relationships and families. According to Racheli, she learns a lot from Dov when they go out on calls together, and it reminds her that she chose a caring and compassionate husband. She told JNS: “Dov encourages me to be independent and go out on calls when he is not there, and this gives me confidence in emergency situations.”
Likewise, Dov said that “Racheli has been the biggest support ever, and it makes me really proud to see her in the vest, talking to the patients. It makes me admire her even more.”
He also maintained that it bolsters their own family’s values. “Seeing us work together as a team to save lives, even when it is not convenient to do so, offers a great learning opportunity for our children,” said Dov. “One time, we went camping over Passover with the kids and another kid went into anaphylactic shock, and we were able to treat the kid with oxygen and medicine so by the time the ambulance got there, the kid was already breathing normally and sipping a can of Coke. It was truly an amazing moment for the kids to see.
“It gives our kids a whole different skill set of values that you don’t find in other houses. When we leave on a call, we are going to help someone and possibly save a life. The kids understand that sometimes, we need to drop everything and go—[it’s] not only about us, us, us.”
Penina and Yossi Dvir of Beitar Illit also go out on calls together with Hatzalah: Yossi as deputy head of the Beitar Illit chapter, and Penina as a psychological first responder for the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit. Before Penina began such work, she and her husband prepared packages for the family of a first responder who had been in a serious car accident. Although fulfilling the good deed took precious family time during a holiday, Penina said “after we did it, I learned that the more we do for others, the easier it is for our family as well.”
Likewise, Moseh and Batya Jaffe, an EMT and EMT Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Responder and in charge of the K-9 unit, respectively, also spoke of the positive impact on their family.
Because they have young children, the couple takes turns responding to emergencies, based on what’s needed at any given time. “If we are too tired or had a hard day, we encourage each other to go out and help,” said Moseh.
Batya, an immigrant to Israel from Mexico and the only person in the world doing emergency animal-assisted therapy, often takes Lucy, her first-responder dog, out on the emergency calls with her.
“When we say all of us are volunteering, it means all of us, including the dog,” Moseh told JNS.
“Our kids already understand the importance of sacrificing our convenience to help other people,” he said. “If you can help someone, you have to.”