In Judaism, the holiest time of the week is Friday night. Traditionally a person prepares themselves to accept or greet the Shabbat in a way that they would accept and greet a bride or a queen. However, for some EMS personnel in Israel, that is not always possible.  

Recently, Ezra Gottlieb, and ambucycle driver who has been an emergency medical services (EMS) responder with United Hatzalah for the past eight years, was alerted to a serious three-vehicle accident on route 60 just one hour before Shabbat.

Accident scene Highway 60
Accident scene Highway 60

“The tunnel road” as it is called due to the tunnels that connect Jerusalem to Gush Etzion is usually clogged with traffic before Shabbat arrives with people heading in both directions on the two-lane road, trying to arrive home before Shabbat begins.

Despite the extremely inconvenient timing, the dedicated volunteer immediately jumped on his ambucycle and raced to the scene from his home in Beitar. The accident caused the already heavy traffic to come to a stand-still. The tunnels behind the crash site in both directions were impassable to regular cars. Fortunately for the victims, Gottlieb was driving an ambucycle, which allowed him to weave through the traffic and arrive in mere minutes.

Gottlieb, together with other United Hatzalah ambucycle medics, immediately began triaging and administering critical medical intervention to the six injured victims. Gottlieb’s attention was drawn to two hysterical children screaming “Ima! Ima!”  The 7 and 10-year-old children were in the back seat of one of the vehicles, with their unconscious mother trapped, slumped over in the driver’s seat. Gottlieb cared for the traumatized children who were only lightly injured while a special rescue unit extricated their mother from the car. Now having access to the mother, Gottlieb checked her for a pulse and finding none, immediately began CPR.

A passerby guided the terrified children away from the scene while Gottlieb and 3 colleagues, including a United Hatzalah doctor who had also responded to the emergency, administered intense chest compressions and systematic ventilations in a valiant attempt to save the young mother’s life. After 15 minutes of rigorous CPR, just as the first ambulance managed to arrive, the woman’s pulse returned! The medics quickly transferred her to the ambulance and she was rushed to the nearest hospital in serious and stable condition.

Only after all the victims were transferred to ambulances did Gottlieb leave the scene. “I arrived home just as Shabbat was commencing,” said Gottlieb. “I was supposed to go shopping and do my last minute errands for Shabbat. By the time I was getting back to Beitar, there was no time left to do what I needed to get done. So we did without the fish that I was supposed to get for Shabbat as no one was going to die from lacking it. When you go to these emergencies, you don’t think about when you will be getting home, or what is left undone. You go out to save lives and you treat those who are injured and need help. I got home exhausted, sweaty, and wearing my weekday clothes, but that is not important. What was important is that we saved lives, and thankfully no one died in the incident.” Gottlieb knows that because of his efforts, a young mother was given the chance to survive, recover and raise her children to enjoy many more Shabbat experiences.