On Shabbat morning at around 5:00 a.m., 4 drunken teenagers were driving in a fast-moving vehicle down the highway and quickly approaching a sobriety checkpoint near the Beit Dagan intersection. Instead of slowing down, they crashed straight through the blockade and continued speeding down the road. Two policemen were left injured, and a third was killed after he was sent airborne for several feet, before landing on the opposite side of the fence. Three other officers suffered an emotional stress reaction as a result of witnessing the accident. Emergency medical services were called for help.
United Hatzalah volunteer with the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Dr. Einat Kaufman was jolted awake from her deep sleep when the familiar sound of her emergency communication device went off. The instrument was alerting her to the emergency at the checkpoint. She quickly grabbed a sweater and fled to the scene.
When she arrived she did a quick triage of the situation and provided psychological and emotional stabilization for two female officers who were eye-witnesses to the crash. A third male officer did not want treatment.
Dr. Kaufman said, “It was a really traumatic experience not only for them but for everyone at the scene, and I really tried to explain this to them. I stressed that they were not alone in this situation and that we are all affected by the experience. We talked about how they were feeling and I worked with them to legitimize their emotions and ground them.”
One of the women officers told Dr. Kaufman that she had just had a conversation with the deceased officer a few minutes prior to the crash. The officer in question took it particularly hard due to the suddenness of it all. “This incident was unexpected for them both because usually, people respect these blockades and act accordingly,” explained Dr. Kaufman, “The women were also still in recovery from the mass-casualty incident in Meron around a year ago. This accident was like a switch that triggered a lot of emotions from that past incident as well.”
In spite of her early morning fatigue, Dr. Kaufman was able to work with the witnesses and listen to them, allowing them to express their emotions and reassure them that their reactions were normal. Dr. Kauffman added, “Each and every word is part of the therapy process, and everything I said to them was thought out and intended to help them in their emotional state.”
Dr. Kaufman explained why the Psycotrauma and Crisis Response Unit is crucial for incidents such as this one. “We arrive in the first few moments when everyone’s emotions are at an all-time high. We help them cope with what they’re feeling, allow them to organize their thoughts, and provide emotional support and stabilization. Our treatment, protocol, and support are what help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder for those who are exposed to a traumatic incident. I hope I succeeded in doing just that for the officers at the checkpoint.”
Afterward, Dr. Kaufman rushed home to get ready for the day. She arrived at her shul just in time for her new son-in-law to get called up to the Torah. “It was an interesting day because I was washed up in a whirlwind of emotions. There was a delicate balance of sadness and joy. On the one hand, I provided treatment for witnesses to a horrible incident where a man was killed. On the other hand, my daughter got married this past Thursday, and this Shabbat was her new husband’s Shabbat Chatan, a celebratory event held after the wedding in some sects of Judaism. The excitement of the Shabbat Chatan was overwhelming, yet still, a hint of this early morning incident stayed with me even throughout the excitement of the day, and I kept hoping that my support helped the officers and the other people affected by this, to find some comfort..”
Dr. Einat Kaufman is one of the directors of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit. She has a PhD. in Psychology and works as a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of acute emotional stress and stabilization in emergencies and disaster zones. Dr. Kaufman has a private practice in Rishon Letzion. She was involved in United Hatzalah’s Operation Orange Wings which provided humanitarian aid and medical care to Ukrainian refugees in Moldova and Ukraine and brought back nearly 3,000 Ukrainian refugees to Israel.
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