Living in a hotel near Tzfat amidst the upheaval caused by the Hamas atrocities, Vicky Tiferet, Hula Valley branch head of United Hatzalah, is grappling with the harsh realities of evacuation.

“Living in a hotel is tough, let me tell you,” Vicky reflected, weariness evident. She’s not just another relocated resident; she’s a crucial part of the emergency team in Moshav Yuval, just 200 meters from the Lebanese border. On October 16th, she was sent to a hotel in Tiberias to manage the well-being of displaced residents after the government evacuated all towns within the 0–2 km perimeter from the northern border. A few weeks later, all displaced Yuval residents were relocated to another hotel near Tzfat.

“Before the evacuation order, for the first ten days, I was in our moshav, working out of the war room,” Vicky said. As the deputy chairman of the emergency team, she cared for the moshav’s residents and the many IDF soldiers arriving en masse in the area. “The army lacked equipment and food since a huge number of soldiers were sent to the border in a very short amount of time. We prepared food packages and equipment and transported them to the different units stationed on the border.”

With the evacuation, her role intensified. “One of the things I was responsible for at the beginning was taking care of the absorption of people into hotels; that was the toughest part,” described Vicky. “For two weeks that felt like hell, I slept about three hours every night. People were disoriented and used to having their own space and little private bubble, especially the kids, and suddenly they felt trapped. People fainted all the time and had panic attacks; it wasn’t easy.”

As reinforcements came in from the regional council, Vicky’s role shifted. Now, she oversees the medical sector in the hotel, finding relevant health insurance clinics for every resident, coordinating doctors’ visits to the hotel, and providing an initial response to emergencies as an EMT. “It’s a different battlefield, but I’m still in the thick of it,” she said.

Vicky recently responded to an alert on her communications device from United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center about an elderly patient with difficulty breathing. The call was located nearby in another hotel room. After Vicky provided initial treatment, the grandmother was transported to the hospital, where doctors discovered pneumonia and fluid in her lungs. “The woman and her daughter were so thankful that I arrived quickly, and they didn’t have to wait on their own for the ambulance, which took almost ten minutes to arrive. As the only EMT in the hotel, they told me, ‘If you weren’t here, what would we do if someone suffered cardiac arrest, G-d forbid?” Vicky recalled.

Amidst all the challenges of being displaced, Vicky vigorously continues to prepare and train for all scenarios. She recently participated in a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) training session that the regional council organized. A doctor from Assuta Hospital led the training, which concentrated on learning lessons from the October 7th attack. “We can’t afford to stop learning, especially now,” said Vicky.

Vicky’s journey with United Hatzalah began five years ago. Working in alternative medicine, she heard about an EMT course opening in her area. After completing the course, she volunteered with United Hatzalah. Three years ago, Vicky became the first woman ever appointed to head a branch of United Hatzalah.

Originally from a Ukrainian family that lived in Turkmenistan, Vicky made Aliyah with her parents when she was nine. She played a significant role in United Hatzalah’s humanitarian mission to Moldova following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. 

Having no siblings, Vicky described the sense of belonging she found within United Hatzalah. “This orange family draws you in; you have a huge family everywhere in the country.”

Returning to the difficult reality of her situation, she recalled the events of October 7th and how they turned life upside down. “We woke up to a dark morning. Everyone in the moshav quickly realized the ramifications for us. Many immediately packed their bags and left, going to areas in central Israel or even flying abroad. The next day, the routine of rocket attacks, anti-tank missiles, and drone infiltrations began.”

Her husband, Oded, who serves as the head of the moshav’s security team, was also immediately mobilized. “We’re trained for this. Back in ’75, there was a terrorist infiltration during my father-in-law’s tenure as the head of the moshav’s security. Since then, this is a scenario the moshav has prepared for every year.” When the moshav’s residents were evacuated, Oded had to remain behind due to his position. Vicky has barely seen him since.

“Living in a hotel is not a vacation,” she clarified. “There is no clear future, and we have no idea when we will be able to go home or if we will ever mentally feel able to. We live day by day. In the meantime, all I can do is try to keep my sanity, and one way to do that is to help others in any way I can.”