On Tuesday morning, The Honorable Judge Ruchie Freier stood outside United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center in the organization’s Jerusalem headquarters, surrounded by volunteer EMTs from the organization’s women’s unit and took a moment to reflect on the groundbreaking initiatives that women have achieved in the Orthodox community in Israel.
“I wanted to thank you for inviting me here and making me feel so welcome at United Hatzalah of Israel. Every time I come I am completely amazed at what you do for the country in general and for women specifically. What I’ve learned today is amazing. I’ve seen what you have done and gotten to meet some of the women and I can just say Kol Hakavod (more honor to you). Kol Hakavod to the men who support these women and help us women thrive at what we do best,” Freier said.
Judge Freier spent the morning at the headquarters of Israel’s all-volunteer non-profit emergency medical services provider to learn about how the organization has succeeded at integrating a full women’s unit comprised of women who come from religious communities in Israel, in both the Ultra-Orthodox communities and the Muslim communities, and still serve to answer the needs of women from those communities by providing them with emergency care in times of need.
“Women providing care for women’s needs is something that existed from the time period of the Bible,” said Judge Freier. “We look back to when the Jews were in Egypt and it was the women who were rushing to deliver babies, it was Miriam and Yocheved who attended to these medical emergencies,” she said. Judge Freier also brought examples from her own work while serving on a local ambulance in New York. “When I was serving on a non-Jewish ambulance and we had a birth or a women’s health emergency, the other servicemen would look to me and tell me to handle the situation as they understood that it brought more comfort to the patient. It is simply logical.”
Founder of United Hatzalah’s women’s unit Gitty Beer added to the sentiment and explained why she felt it was necessary to establish the unit specifically in these communities to help the women receive an extra sense of comfort during treatment. “As EMS first responders, our priority is to our patient. We are all dropping whatever we are doing, rushing to a scene, using our medical knowledge that we spent months obtaining and spending all this energy and money on making sure this patient feels better. So why not take it one step further and make them feel comfortable while we are helping them? They are already suffering through a traumatic experience, why make the experience more traumatic for a woman by having a bunch of strange men gathering around her, while she is in a very vulnerable state when we could have women do it.”
Beer gave an analogy to explain further. “It would be similar to a person having a medical emergency in a foreign country. EMS responders from the country come and want to help and offer their help but don’t speak the same language. Then a person walks in who speaks the language of the patient. That patient would feel much better and more comfortable knowing that there is someone there whom they can communicate to on the same wavelength. This is exactly the same scenario. A woman who is providing care for a patient can immediately connect to another woman and speak the same language, even if they don’t actually speak the same language, simply because they understand more about what the patient needs and how the patient communicates. They both speak woman.”
One of the volunteers, Yaffa Goldschmidt, told Judge Freier about her experiences in Israel as an Ultra-Orthodox woman who responds to emergencies of other women. “Whenever I go on calls, the feedback I get from the women and their husbands is incredible. It really makes a difference for people that we are there to help them when they need us especially during calls that can be of a sensitive or private nature.”
Before the meeting concluded Judge Freier told the volunteer EMTs and Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers who had gathered that she received inspiration from them. “You give me inspiration. You are doing what we all should be doing. Keep up the great work. You give me inspiration and renewed strength to go on and continue my work in the United States.”
To support the work of United Hatzalah’s Women’s Unit please click here: