Last December, Yoel Souisa Z”L, a Dimona resident and United Hatzalah volunteer EMT, was riding his ambucycle (emergency motorcycle) on Highway 25 in the Negev when he was struck by a car that carelessly inserted itself into the highway from a side road. Yoel was transported to the hospital in critical condition. He later succumbed to his injuries, sending shockwaves throughout the EMS organization and the Dimona community.

Yoel was buried the next morning. Hundreds of people attended the funeral including United Hatzalah President and Founder Eli Beer. Scores of United Hatzalah volunteers and ambucycle drivers from across the entire country, in addition to Dimona public figures and rabbis, joined together to say farewell to the beloved Yoel. During the funeral, Yoel’s widow, Efrat, broke down in tears and told Eli Beer how her husband’s volunteer work was “his entire world” and vowed that she would become a volunteer in his place.

Eli Beer third from right together with Efrat Souisa second from left her and Yoels children and Yoels mother 1 1024x768 1
Eli Beer (third from right) together with Efrat Souisa (second from left), her and Yoel’s children, and Yoel’s mother

Last Wednesday, Efrat fulfilled her promise. At a graduation ceremony for the advanced Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit (PCRU) that took place at United Hatzalah’s Beer Sheva “Volunteer House,” Efrat took her place among 16 other graduates who completed their training and will now provide psychological first aid for those suffering from emotional or psychological shock in the immediate aftermath of severe medical emergencies. 

In attendance at the ceremony were Efrat and Yoel’s children and Yoel’s mother, as well as the Mayor of Be’er Sheva Rubik Danilovich. In an effort to memorialize Yoel, the organization has decided that all graduates of the course will be part of “Team Yoel”, which also includes all volunteers of the Dimona chapter.

During the graduation ceremony, Efrat honored her late husband’s legacy and demonstrated her commitment to continuing his important work. She told the gathered crowd: “I want to begin by thanking Yoel for teaching us all the time what giving from the heart means. I want to thank Eli Beer. I have no words to describe the moment when you came to me during the funeral and I told you I will continue Yoel’s path. I saw the sparks in your eyes and I think this is what gave me the power to do it so I want to say thank you. Thank you to the heads of the PCRU Uriel Balams, Hadas Rucham, Einat Kauffman, and Avi Marcus, and to Yosef Assor, the head of the Dimona Branch, who have given me this opportunity. You have believed in me and allowed me to join an amazing family, a family that I have known for years but didn’t know just how far they would go to make sure that I was not alone in the hardest moments in my life. I want to say thank you to my brothers and sisters here in the course who have become like a family, thank you for the spark in your eyes every time we met, thank you for the nice words, the support, and the caring. You are the strength that allows me to continue, together with my amazing children and my dear mother-in-law who is with me every day. Thank you to everyone.”

Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich spoke about the meaning of United Hatzalah’s activity and said: “United Hatzalah is love without conditions or borders. Once, United Hatzalah sent an ambulance to take my father to the old age home and I saw the commitment of the volunteers who came. Such patience, such love. I also owe you a personal thank you. You touch everyone. Look at the Israeli mosaic that is here. Olim, veteran Israelis, women and men, center and periphery, Arabs and Jews, you are the beautiful Eretz Yisrael. I know how much it steals from your personal and family time, because when the beeper goes off, there are no hours, there is no day or night, and whoever is the closest and can save a soul, immediately runs. By honoring and respecting people because they are people, created in God’s image, you sanctify God’s name. You open your heart and what you do enters deep into everyone’s hearts. I want to express appreciation, recognition, and thanks, from the bottom of my heart. Volunteers like you are the strength of our city and of our country.”

left to right United Hatzalah President and Founder Eli Beer and Efrat Souisa holding her course completition certificate together with PCRU

Avi Marcus, Deputy Head of United Hatzalah’s Medical Division and Operations Manager of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, explained the role of the Unit’s volunteers: “What you have learned throughout the course, beyond the ways to approach a person and calm them down, is the core of the values of United Hatzalah and in particular of the Unit. Everything has to do with compassion and empathy. These two concepts are very similar but have slight nuances. It’s important to understand the meaning of arriving in someone’s house or at the scene of an emergency and give treatment while demonstrating compassion and empathy, because at the end of the day the person is in the midst of a very stressful event and you invade their private space in order to change the nature of the event for the better. That is the power of what we do.”

Eli Beer expressed his pride in Efrat and his gratitude for her dedication to the organization’s mission, saying, “Yoel had a job and a family but every time someone needed help he would stop everything and run to save other people until his last breath. Efrat, before the funeral, I had never met such a strong woman like you in my life. You promised that you’re going to continue Yoel’s mission and tonight together with another 16 volunteers you are graduating from the advanced Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit training course, and becoming part of the Yoel Souisa Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Team of the Negev. I want to thank you Efrat for joining us and becoming part of our family. I want to thank all the kids for allowing your mother to do this and to give of her time. You should be very proud of your mother for what she has done, and what she will do.”

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About United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit:

In 2016, United Hatzalah established the revolutionary Psychotrauma Unit which consists of trained volunteers who can provide emotional stabilization support at the scene of traumatic medical emergencies such as terror attacks, Mass Casualty Incidents (MCIs), rocket attacks, and the like. Supplementing EMTs, this unit provides Israel’s people with psychological first aid on scene, thereby preventing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Psychotrauma & Crisis Response Unit was created out of need. At a medically traumatic scene or crisis, the physical needs were being met but the bystanders, the family, and the people that were not injured in the situation were left to fend for themselves after experiencing an extremely difficult situation.

While EMTs and paramedics are highly trained to treat physical injuries, they have limited or no training on how to deal with traumatized, disoriented, or highly agitated people in the chaos of an emergency. United Hatzalah established the Psychotrauma & Crisis Response Unit to address and correct this situation.