Every night throughout Hanukkah, United Hatzalah will be awarding one highly dedicated volunteer with the annual Korenvaes Miracle Award. Tonight’s recipient, on the third night of Hanukkah, is Etti Peretz from Beit Shemesh.
Etti Perez is a 53-year-old mother to four and a grandmother of five. Two of her daughters are married, one is a nurse in Shaare Tzedek Hospital and her husband is also a nurse. Etti is by profession a kindergarten teacher but has been on unpaid leave since the beginning of Corona in the spring.
She grew up in Kiryat Arba and lived through the period of the first intifada in Kiryat Arba and was an eye-witness to many of the terror attacks that took place in Kiryat Arba and Hevron and wanted to enter into the health field in order to help others. Another incident that pushed her to become a medical first responder took place shortly after she got married and had her first daughter. Her eldest daughter, just one-month-old at the time, choked and stopped breathing. She was saved by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who lived in the neighborhood and rushed to help. “We were always very thankful to him for saving her,” Etti said. “It helped inspire me to put myself in a position where I too can help others.”
Now that her children have grown up she finally has time to dedicate herself fully to helping others. She took an EMT training course three years ago and joined the Beit Shemesh Chapter of United Hatzalah. She became the first-ever woman to serve as a Shabbat volunteer in the city which has a large Ultra-Orthodox population, and, in 2019, she became the first and only woman to serve as an EMT during the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage in the city of Uman, an annual pilgrimage which is primarily for men.
In addition to rushing to any and all medical emergencies in her neighborhood of Beit Shemesh, Etti runs the chapter’s Ten Kavod – Giving Honor project that sees trained medical first responders visit elderly people who live on their own at least once a week to spend some time with them and alleviate feelings of loneliness while checking up on their health. The project exists in dozens of cities and municipalities across Israel.
This project has become critical during the Corona time period as many of the elderly people were not able to leave their homes due to their being considered high-risk patients should they contract the disease. “Many older people throughout the city, and even throughout the country, were unable to leave their homes even to go food shopping or purchase their much-needed medicines, because of the fear that they would contract the disease. United Hatzalah recognized this problem and opened up a Humanitarian Dispatch Center to respond to instances in which people required assistance that was of a non-medical nature due to the lockdown and shutdown of the country. I am proud that I took part in this and ran the logistics for the Humanitarian Dispatch in responding to requests for humanitarian assistance in Beit Shemesh.”
Etti volunteered in the dispatch center, but when she saw that she would be more effective in the field, running logistics for the city of Beit Shemesh and the surrounding area, she took on that role and began traveling around the city on a daily basis providing all of the elderly what they needed.
“During one of the lockdowns, we had an elderly person who a holocaust survivor who had fallen down the stairs in his building on Friday. The man’s wife helped him up and took him home and bandaged him. After the man suffered all of Shabbat and complained of his hand hurting, the wife called the humanitarian dispatch on Sunday and asked us for help. I headed over and took one look at him and I knew that he needed immediate medical attention. I located an open doctor’s office and took the man. He was bleeding from numerous injuries and even had an open bleed under the bandage that his wife had put on. Thankfully we brought him to the doctor who told us that had we waited any longer, the man’s hand would have been in serious danger of amputation.”
Etti reflected on how the Coronavirus is giving us all a taste of what it feels like to be old and alone. “Over this era of the Coronavirus, I think the whole world has gotten a small taste of what it means to feel alone. Just a small taste of what many of these elderly people have been feeling for years. Now during Corona, even elderly people who have many children feel a sense of loneliness as oftentimes their children don’t come to visit due to fears of risking their parents’ health. Thus the job of these volunteers who go and check up on the elderly once a week, socialize with them, look after them and make sure that they have everything they need has become vitally important during the past year. For some people, our volunteers are the only connection they have to the world outside their homes, aside from phone calls. It has helped so many people in a truly significant way. I am glad to be a part of it.”
Etti has been selected as the 3rd recipient of the Korenvaes Miracle Award this Hanukkah. We will be posting other recipients nightly. To send Etti a Hanukkah card or to make a donation in her honor that will help save lives in Israel throughout the next year, please click here.