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An Unlikely Encounter with a Holocaust Survivor
Namah Abohaikal is a 22-year-old volunteer EMT living in the Arab village of Ein Naqquba, located 15 kilometers west of Jerusalem. She is the only Arab woman in the Mevaseret Zion chapter and has been volunteering with United Hatzalah for the last year.
Starting in mid-February 2021, the Claims Conference (The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany) initiated a project in partnership with United Hatzalah to make sure that all 20,000 homebound Holocaust survivors living in Israel are able to easily receive their Covid-19 vaccine. The survivors are transported by United Hatzalah ambulances directly to their local vaccination centers.
On behalf of United Hatzlah, Namah is currently administering vaccines with the Israeli HMO Clalit. Last month she had an unlikely encounter with Mazal, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor. We wanted to know more about this special experience and were able to catch Namah for a short conversation.
First off, why did you decide to join United Hatzalah last year?
I wanted to become a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah because I really love to help people, especially if I know that I am close by to an emergency and can arrive quickly. My grandmother and grandfather are not well and have a variety of health issues, so I wanted to know what to do in order to be able to regularly assist them.
In our village and the surrounding Arab villages of Ein Rafa and Abu Gosh, there aren’t a lot of EMS personnel. As of now, I am the only Arab woman who volunteers in the Mevaseret Zion chapter. I hope there will be more in the future.
I recently finished my B.A. in Education and Community Work, and am currently working with the HMO Clalit administering vaccines on behalf of United Hatzalah. I rotate between vaccination centers in Mevaseret Zion and in Abu Gosh.
In your village of Ein Naqquba, how do people feel about you volunteering?
I feel this especially from Arab women in the area, who are really happy to finally have someone who can attend to private situations, such as births.
Tell us about your encounter with Mazal.
One day they told me there was a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor named Mazal coming from the area of Shoresh to get vaccinated in Mevasaret, and that I was going to give her the vaccine in the United Hatzalah ambulance.
She was such a nice woman. She hugged me and kissed me, and she was really happy to meet me. We even took a selfie together.
I am an Arab woman with a head covering and all and I felt very warm around her. I gave her the vaccine in the ambulance itself. Then I waited with her for the required 15 minutes to make sure that she didn’t have any side effects or ill reactions to the vaccine. After that, the United Hatzalah volunteers running the ambulance shift took her back home.
She didn’t tell me a lot about her past or what she has been through, but she was very grateful to get the vaccine and was happy to meet me. We had a great connection.
Was it meaningful for you to have such an encounter?
It was really meaningful for me. You know, she is a woman who went through such a hard time in her life, and even though we only met for a few minutes, I was really happy that I was able to give her back a small piece of kindness.
Women of her age haven’t been able to meet their families for over a year, and I was happy to help her get her life back.
It is very important for me to continue with my volunteering and helping people. It doesn’t matter if they are Jewish, Arab, religious, secular, with a hair covering, without a hair covering. Everyone is the same to me.
Overall, I feel really proud to respond to medical emergencies for United Hatzalah and to be a part of the current vaccination efforts.
Namah Abohaikal is just one of the many volunteers who are helping Holocaust survivors and other elderly people around the country receive their vaccinations.
Below is a video summarizing the powerful encounters of our volunteers.
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