For the past five years, United Hatzalah volunteers from the Galilee have provided EMS coverage for the annual Christmas Market and accompanying parade that takes place prior to the holiday in Nazareth. With United Hatzalah’s newly inaugurated chapter in the city, this year was no different, and all of the city’s volunteers came to lend a hand as well as a few guests from surrounding villages, towns and cities to ensure the safety of the revelers.
Ahmad Zoabi is the head of new Nazareth Chapter of United Hatzalah. In addition to being an EMS volunteer, Zoabi also works in the field as the owner of a private ambulance organization Matzilim Hayim or “Lifesavers” in English. Zoabi’s organization works in Nazareth and the surrounding area providing ambulance services to anyone who needs in their region regardless of race or religion. As both the director of Lifesavers and the United Hatzalah chapter, Zoabi makes sure that there is a close working relationship between the two.
The Christmas Market and Festival this year began on December 17th and continued up to Saturday, December 23rd, when the festival culminated with a parade, the day before Christmas Eve.
What differentiated the festival this year from previous years was that the police specifically requested that the chapter provide numerous ambulances and ambucycles due to the expected volume of revelers this year. “We were asked to bring 6 ambulances including two intensive care unit ambulances as well as four ambucycles. I was able to provide the ambulances from Matzilim Hayim but unfortunately, we don’t have any ambucycles in the city yet due to the relatively young age of our chapter.”
But Zoabi wasn’t going to let that stand in his way. Instead, he asked for help from some of the other volunteers in United Hatzalah.
“I spoke with Murad Aliyan who oversees all of the Muslim volunteers for United Hatzalah. He organized the four volunteers with ambucycles to come from the rest of the Galilee and help us fulfill the quota needed by the police for the parade. The volunteers who answered the call were Christian, Druze, and Muslim, all of whom were eager to help provide the coverage needed to guarantee the safety of the celebrants. Riyan Amasha and Chassin Zidan, Druze volunteers from the Carmel, and Christian volunteer Amir Heik were among the volunteers who were happy to lend a hand.”
Nazareth is a new chapter that was inaugurated just two months ago and is part of the Muslim branch of United Hatzalah. It currently numbers 20 volunteers from the city and a few others from the nearby villages. “We are hoping to expand the number of volunteers we have in order to provide better coverage and faster response times as well as receive ambucycles of our own,” said Zoabi. “My dream is to have at least two ambucycles in the chapter in the near future so that we can answer the urgent need that is caused by the heavy traffic and narrow roadways in and around the city. It is very difficult to traverse the city with private cars quickly, and hence our response times are slower than what they could be.”
On the holiday that is known for giving, the Muslim, Druze and Christian volunteers of United Hatzalah certainly gave back to their community in the best way that they knew how.