On Wednesday morning, one of the more active emergency medical service (EMS) volunteers in Umm al-Fahm, an Arab town located in Wadi Ara, responded to a car accident that saw two people lightly injured. The volunteer EMT treated both of the injured parties after they were evacuated from their vehicles by the Fire and Rescue Department. What makes this story different from the myriad of motor vehicle accidents that occur daily in Israel is that the volunteer EMT in question is not only Muslim, not only religious but also a woman.
Sanaa Mahameed is a powerhouse of lifesaving. She has spent the better part of her adult life dedicating her time to save the lives of others. She is trained to drive an ambulance and works with the local ambulance organization known as Kahol-Lavan (Blue and white). She works at the local health clinic in her town and she volunteers as a first responder with United Hatzalah of Israel.
“I came into this field because I wanted to help people following a tragic story that has left me scarred until today,” Mahameed recounts. “I was sixteen when the story occurred. I was home alone one night when my aunt called me and asked if there was an adult home. I told her I was aloneץ She had a sense of urgency in her voice and she sounded frightened. I told her to tell me what was wrong. She told me in a broken voice that her husband sat down on the sofa and was now unable to move. I threw down the phone and ran to their home as fast as I could go.”
Mahameed continued her recounting of events. “I got to their home and I saw him sitting on the sofa, not moving. His daughter was standing over his screaming at him, “Daddy! Daddy! Please wake up.” I called for an ambulance and they came fairly quickly but it was still too late.”
“From that day onwards I knew that I would dedicate my life to saving other people by becoming an EMT so that I would know how to help people no matter what was occurring around me. That is precisely what I did,” Mahameed recalled.
“I began training to be an ambulance driver. I took courses on how to respond to large-scale disaster incidents such as earthquakes, I work as an EMT during collegiate and high school sporting events and as an EMT guide with touring children,” said Mahameed. “My dream is to complete paramedic training and to fly an emergency response helicopter.”
Mahameed has a message for other Muslim women, religious and non-religious alike. “I want to send a message to all the Muslim women out there who have dreams similar to mine and wish to help others. Come join us here at United Hatzalah, we need more people like you. I can tell you from personal experience just how much saving a life enriches my own. There is no feeling like it and I invite you all to join this wonderful organization that empowers me to do what I love so much.”
Sanaa is one of 300 Muslim volunteers in United Hatzalah and also one of 320 women in the organization, but, she is the only one who can brag an association to both of those groupings. Her religious adherence has never proven to be a problem for her and she is respected and loved by her fellow volunteers, especially those who work together with her locally in the Umm-El Fahm and Shibli chapter, a chapter that is all Muslim, one of three in the organization thus far. All of the Muslim volunteers in the chapter and throughout the organization, similarly to their Jewish, Bedouin, Druze and Christian counterparts, provide emergency medical treatment to anyone who needs it in their vicinity regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion.