Every night throughout Hanukkah, United Hatzalah will be awarding one highly dedicated volunteer with the annual Korenvaes Miracle Award. Tonight’s recipient, on the fifth night of Hanukkah, is Miriam Bader from Kfar Qassem
Miriam Bader is a Muslim woman living in Kfar Qassem, she is 36 years old and is married with three children the oldest of which is 18. She has a double master’s degree in childhood education and journalism and communication. Although she wasn’t able to pursue a career as a doctor, she still persevered and is currently the vice-principal of a junior-high-school. She has a very well-rounded education and is a licensed tour guide and possesses a number of other professional degrees as well. In addition to her career and being a busy mother of three, Miriam regularly responds to medical emergencies in her city, even ones as gruesome as shootings and gang violence.
Miriam spoke about how she was forced to abandon her childhood dream and is working hard to get it back. “I always dreamed of being a doctor. Ever since I was a little girl this is what I wanted to do. However, my dream got taken away from me by my mother and husband but I am now slowly getting it back.”
“The story began when I got engaged. My family made a match for me very early, when I was still only in eighth grade. My condition for the engagement was that I could finish my studies in high school and then get married and still be allowed to go to college to become a doctor. I got accepted to medical school in Romania so that I could go into medical school right away without having to do a BA first. When I finished high school I got married and I became pregnant right away. My husband refused to go to Romania and said it was because of his business and because I was pregnant. When I confronted him and said that this was the condition on which we got engaged, he said that even though that was our agreement, he was breaking it. I found out later that my mother had previously arranged this because she didn’t want me going into medicine, she wanted me to go into education. My mother studied education but never worked, so she always wanted me to go into education in her place. I felt that my mother and husband destroyed my dream and destroyed my life.”
“My mother had secretly signed me up for studies at Beit Berl College for education. She told me to go be a teacher. So I became a Hebrew teacher and later I became the vice-principal of the school. Since then, I have decided to study a different field every year. While I was always learning, I always felt that the field of medicine was missing and that I was still missing out on my dream.”
Miriam finally found her outlet for assisting others in the medical field via United Hatzalah. “I volunteer wherever I can in our town. I am a volunteer with numerous organizations each of which helps out in its own way. Two years ago, I learned that United Hatzalah was opening an EMT training course and I thought to myself that here was my opportunity to get back some of what I lost when I wasn’t allowed to study medicine. I ran to study the course and the world changed. When I took the course we were three women and the rest were all men. I asked myself, where are the rest of the women. I have always been the type of person who believes that a woman can have a strong career and still succeed at being a good mother. One doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other. We can do both.”
“I graduated from the course and finished the field training period as well. I responded to all sorts of medical emergencies including some critical ones. One emergency that I will never forget was a shooting that took place a few days before my father’s engagement party. I was out buying a dress when I received an emergency alert and I was the closest responder. I rushed over and saw that a boy had been shot multiple times and was dead. Men from all over the community started to arrive. Some to help, and some just to see what had transpired. Here I was, the only woman first responder present, with all of these men around me. But I held my own. It was, after all, my scene as I had arrived first. Then two women showed up, one of them was the sister of the boy who died. They saw me, a woman, who was one of the rescuers, and they approached me asking what had transpired. I wasn’t allowed to tell them that her brother had just been murdered. I couldn’t tell them anything. But I could hug them and be there for them, and that is what I did. That day, I didn’t go buy the dress that I was supposed to get for my father’s party. I didn’t go anywhere. It was a very difficult emergency for me and one that took time to get over.”
“There have been good experiences as well. One time I was leaving a building and coming down an elevator when the emergency alert application on my phone went off and said that there was an emergency nearby. As the elevator doors opened on the ground floor, I saw the emergency right in front of me. An older Jewish man was on the floor and had just fainted. I approached him and called the dispatch for backup. I assessed him and saw that he was alive but had fainted. I made sure his airway stayed open. As he began to come around, he opened his eyes and saw me and said, “You are an angel.” His sister, who was accompanying him and was in hysterics asked me “where did you come from.” The man responded by saying “God sent you to me.” He then asked me to accompany him into the hospital nearby as he was supposed to undergo an MRI for a previous head injury. So I accompanied him, even though we had just met. I told the medical teams that he had just fainted and was coming for an MRI on his head. Because they saw that I was a volunteer, they took the case very seriously and sped up the man’s triage and admission process. The man and his sister took my number and have stayed in touch with me. They still thank me for helping them. That is something that will always stay with me. The idea that helping another person, even in a small way, can mean a great deal to someone else.”
Miriam is currently pushing her son to take the training course and become a volunteer EMT as well. “When my son finished high school I am pushing for him to take the course so that he too will know that feeling of the gratification that one feels by helping another person even without knowing them or their story. Who a person is and what their background is, for us as first responders are less important than the fact that they need help right now. When someone needs help, we help them, and that is all the information we need. So far, he seems like he will take the course. So I am happy about that.”
Miriam’s children support her in her volunteering, and in the end, even her husband came around. “We had been separated for a while because there were a lot of problems but we eventually worked them out. When I told my husband that I was going to take the training course, I was 32. I didn’t ask for permission, I told him I was doing it. He responded and said, ‘You’re not 18 anymore you can decide for yourself.’ He knows I make my own rules now.”
Miriam added that her husband even drives her to emergencies if they take place late at night so that he can make sure that she stays safe in dangerous neighborhoods. “We have shootings a lot and when there is an emergency that takes place late at night in a dangerous neighborhood I wake my husband up and he drives me to the address and waits for me in the car.”
At first, my family found it hard, but now they all support me and what I do, they know how important it is. My grandmother used to go to the hospital all the time with lots of complaints of blood pressure issues. But every time she went, there was never anything wrong with her. Now, instead of going to the hospital, she calls me. I head over and check out her symptoms and I can tell her if there really is a reason to worry or not. It has brought us closer and saved the rest of the family a lot of hassle.”
Miriam said that in the field she is treated mostly like any other responder, in spite of her being a religious Muslim woman. “I don’t think that a Religious Muslim woman faces any more serious stigmas in the field than any other woman. I think that women, no matter who they are, face the same challenges. For me, the challenges came when I began to respond to emergencies. At first, it was unusual to see a woman in our town responding, but after that newness wore off, the rest of the first responders here got used to it and moved on. Now, whenever a woman is injured at a scene and I am present they call me over to help because often a woman prefers being helped by another woman if there is one available. The police also know me, because there are a lot of medical emergencies at the police station that I respond to as well. They also call me to come and help women at the station because they don’t want to be touched by a man.”
Miriam hopes to continue to realize her dream and one day become a paramedic with United Hatzalah as well. In the meantime, she is continuing to make a difference in her community and her city by saving one life at a time while still being a successful mother and successful at her career.
Miriam has been selected as the 5th recipient of the Korenvaes Miracle Award this Hanukkah. We will be posting other recipients nightly. To send Miriam 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.