As part of our Year Of The Volunteer project, we will be highlighting volunteers from across the country who give of themselves and their time to help others each and every day. It is time to recognize these heroes for the work that they do both as volunteer first responders and in their everyday lives. As today is Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new year for trees, we are highlighting some of the extraordinary farmers who made a difference this past year both as a farmer and as a first responder. 


Rami Shaya

Rami is the Chapter Head of the Har HaNegev (Negev mountain) region which, geographically speaking, is the largest chapter in the country. The geographic location of the chapter extends from Ramat Hovav in the north to the southern edge of the Rimon crater in the south, and actually continues a bit further south in the desert and has an undefined crossover zone with the Eilat chapter somewhere between the two.  

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“I’ve always wanted to work in agriculture ever since I was a child,” Rami related. As he grew up Rami studied in a specialized agriculture school in Pardes Chana and wanted to be a dairy farmer, working in a cowshed and producing dairy products.  When he moved to Kibbutz Sde Boker he had to change fields as there is no dairy farm on that kibbutz. “I began to learn how to grow fruit and started working with the jojoba bush and harvesting its seeds to make oil that is used primarily in cosmetics. I’ve been working with this plant for the past 30 years and have become an expert in the field of developing and producing Jojoba oil.” 

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Rami treating a patient during a search and rescue operation in the desert

According to Rami this is an up-and-coming area and export and Israel has quite the empire with regard to the product. “One-fifth of all Jojoba growing areas in the entire world is located in Israel, and as a country, and Israel produces 50% of all of the Jojoba oil in the globe. We produce six times more oil per plant than other countries do, and that is thanks to some wonderful innovations and techniques that we have developed here over the past 30 years.” 


The history of the Jojoba plant in Israel began when an enterprising Israeli and a gasoline company brought the plant to the country and attempted to create a plant-based fuel for jetplanes. This oil doesn’t break down until it hits 600 degrees celsius, making it extremely safe to transport when compared to other oils and fuels. “However, the importers quickly realized that the process to develop the oil is more expensive than other options available so they scrapped the project. After the seeds came to Israel, Kibbutz Chatzerim purchased the rights to develop it and they moved the whole process really far forward. That is when I started working there and I have been working with these seeds ever since.” Currently, Rami works with Kibbutz Gal-On on their project called Jojoba valley and is in charge of 1,000 dunams of land that are dedicated to the development and production of this bush.   

“The field of agriculture is turning a lot to robotics now. So I am working to develop robotic techniques to grow and process this plant better and faster. I very much enjoy this work. Even though I grew up in the city, I’ve always been an agriculturist at heart. I feel that the innovative spirit which I bring to the field has a lot to do with my volunteering as an EMT with United Hatzalah.  


I didn’t inherit this work of being a farmer from my family like many others do. It is something I always wanted to do. Many farmers do the same style of work every day, every season, and try to keep the same style of work that they do. I’ve always thought about how to change things up in this field. I always try to look ahead and see how to develop new styles of farming in order to change the way things are done and develop new methods of producing oil. 

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Rami with a United Hatzalah rescue Easy-Rider at Sde Boker

This drive is also why I like working with United Hatzalah. Agriculture is land and land is our roots. Our roots are who we are. United Hatzalah is life, and our life is the most basic thing about us. Without land and without life we would not be able to exist. The fact the United Hatzalah is always improving, developing, learning, and creating new ways to save lives is something that I find inspiring and helps me stay constantly connected to the work we do. 


A few months ago I was alerted to a medical emergency of someone suffering chest pains in the Ben Gurion College which is located right next to Kibbutz Sde Boker. A paramedic had arrived and told me to come and help. The paramedic said the man was adamant not to go to the hospital even though all the signs showed that he was having an imminent heart attack. But he still refused to go to the hospital and was even getting violent. 

When I got there, the man recognized me and said to me, “Rami what do you think?” I looked at the man and his wife and I asked, what do you have planned for tomorrow? He told me. I told him ‘You should cancel the plans because tomorrow you won’t be there, you’ll be dead.’ Within two minutes he had gotten into the ambulance and I drove the ambulance with the paramedic from there all the way to Soroka hospital in Be’er Sheva (50 kilometers/30 miles) where the doctors received him and immediately took him into the catheterization lab. He survived and since then he changed his lifestyle, changed his diet, lost weight, and is still alive. Every time his wife sees me she thanks me for saving his life.

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Rami and his jeep with the view of an incredible rainbow near his fields

This was an instance where I didn’t do too much procedurally, but I still saved this man’s life by simply knowing him and knowing what to say to motivate him. Farming is similar. I know what these plants need in order to produce their best and I help motivate them to do so. 



Nachshon Reshef 

Nachshon is a third-generation farmer who lives in Kibbutz Rishpon near Herzliya. “My grandfather worked with vegetables, and my father worked in orange orchards and with avocados. I began working with vegetables, flowers, and persimmons, but what really stuck with me throughout the years was my work with persimmons. There is something about the fruit that I connect with. Now I work exclusively with them.” Nachshon manages fields of 70 dunams of persimmon trees with the help of a staff of workers that he employs.   

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Nachshon in his field with his dog

As a farmer in Israel, I grew up being taught the importance of giving and contributing back to society, that is what really connects me to the land of Israel and its people. It is also why I chose to become a volunteer with United Hatzalah. My son, who lives in Kiryat Gat, got me into the idea of becoming an emergency medical first responder, and I am glad that he did it. It really showed me that I managed to pass on this important lesson to the next generation and then he taught it back to me. While I’ve never farmed oranges, I was happy to become a member of the ‘Orange Family’ of United Hatzalah. It is something that I also find very fulfilling.”

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Nachshon (right) with his son Ohad Reshef (left)

Nachshon relayed a ‘rescue’ story where the patience and diligence he utilizes as a farmer served him well as a first responder. “I was dispatched to an emergency, a few months back,  that involved an 8-month-old baby that was choking. I was on my personal motorcycle and I knew that I was going to be the first responder at the scene. When I arrived, I saw a woman standing outside her house with a baby, and the baby was crying.” 

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Nachshon at his factory where the persimmons are packaged and shipped to stores

“Once I saw the baby crying, I calmed down and took things a step slower. This baby was obviously not choking if he was able to cry. I told the mother that the baby was going to be okay and I tried to calm the mother but she kept saying over and over that he was choking and he was going to die. I took the baby from her arms and I showed her that he was breathing and that he was distressed but very much alive.


“When the ambulance arrived they took the baby inside the vehicle just so they could listen to his lungs to make sure they were clear and then they gave the baby back to his mother. The mother and child didn’t even need to go to the hospital. The mother profusely thanked me saying that had I not come, and she needed to wait all the extra time until the ambulance arrived, she would have lost her mind due to the stress. 

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Nachshon in his fields

“Sometimes as a first responder, just like in farming, you need to let things play out as they will with calm and patience. This was one of those times when I didn’t need to provide medical intervention but I was able to help simply by providing calm and soothing energy to help the person calm down from a frightening situation.” 

To support the work of United Hatzalah volunteers during our year of the volunteer, or to hear more unique stories like these, please visit our Year of the Volunteer website –