Gitty Beer, the busy mom of five, a new grandmother, and the wife of United Hatzalah’s founder Eli Beer, started and runs United Hatzalah’s Women’s Unit, which is made up of more than 100 EMS volunteers and counting.
Although there are almost 1,000 women who volunteer in United Hatzalah, the women who make up this specialized unit share a common background and social framework.
Up until just a few years ago, religiously observant women in cities like Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, and others, couldn’t find an organization where they felt comfortable to be both an observant Jewish woman and a volunteer first responder.
Gitty Beer recognized that United Hatzalah was able to answer the needs of these observant women and help them provide a vital service for their communities. With a lot of hard work and determination, the Women’s Unit was born and has been responding to medical emergencies for the past three years.
Over the past year, the unit has flourished and expanded its activities. A special ambulance was donated specifically for the unit this past spring and is in constant use, and many of the women have begun to take ambulance driver training courses. Currently, the unit has six certified drivers.
This strong community of women has succeeded tremendously during the pandemic. A first responder who is a woman arriving to help other women suffering from all types of medical emergencies has finally become the norm in many communities in Israel where such a thing was never possible before.
Gitty Beer, in her own words, shares with us more below.
A Stress Reducer
When a person suffers a medical emergency they are usually feeling very vulnerable. This is especially true during the current pandemic because the woman in question has probably spent a lot more time at home than usual, has been busy dealing with her children and is under a lot of stress.
When a woman arrives as one of the first responders, the patient’s stress level immediately goes down and she feels as if there is someone there who understands her a bit better than a male first responder would. Without even speaking, women just understand each other.
And I am not talking just about physical touch, which might be more comfortable. I am talking about the emotional part. We calm them down.
We have answers for them that men might not think of. For example, it could be about what they need to do with their kids if they go to the hospital. And if they did go to the hospital during this pandemic, would they need to be in isolation after?
We are not only medical personnel, but we are also mothers and wives. It makes it easier for women during emergencies to hear our opinion.
We have absolutely amazing male volunteers. But there is just something special when you both understand each other. On almost every call I go on during this pandemic, it is very obvious they are happy we are there.
I am not sure if it is because women are more reluctant to go to the hospital, or are just waiting around until the last minute.
One of my favorite things, which sometimes occurs as often as a few times a day now, is when I get a picture from a volunteer in the unit after they have assisted in delivering a baby. It gives me a great feeling.
Many women were really busy before and never noticed what we do, but now they have more free time and want to join.
Because of the pandemic, the women’s unit has become a close-knit community. They support each other. Recently people feel the lack of community and connection, so it has been so important for them.
When you are a mom and you have to go into quarantine it is so difficult because your whole family depends on you.
But these women continue to respond to medical emergencies even though they are putting themselves at risk of being exposed to the virus by doing so. We are obviously careful and wear the proper equipment, but still, there is a risk.
Women Volunteering Becoming the Norm
They never think twice about anything and just go out there and do their thing.
Today it is a norm that we have women who go out and deliver babies, and it never used to be like that.
And the fact that it has become a norm, has made it extremely special. It means we have gotten to where we have wanted to.
It means we have achieved our goal of making the unit commonplace and accepted in the field.
I am inspired by every single one of these women on a daily basis. It is my honor to lead this unit and I so grateful that I have this opportunity.
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