It was a peaceful Friday night after the Shabbat meal when my son and I stepped out of the house in order to go learn Torah together in the local synagogue. A few moments after we left the house the calm was shattered by the sound of gunfire.
At first, we thought it was the sound of IDF training in the distance, that we are used to hearing in the neighborhood. But as the shooting grew louder and neighbors screamed “terrorist,” the reality of the situation hit me. I quickly reported an active shooting incident to United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center and ran back home to bring my son back to safety. Once at home, I grabbed my medical trauma kit and bulletproof vest. My wife did not want me to go. I explained that my presence was needed to save lives and that I would be extremely cautious, prompting her to accept reluctantly.
As I rushed towards the scene, the shooting continued, relentless and deafening. I repeatedly radioed for backup, warning fellow first responders not to get too close to the scene until the end of the shooting. The gunfire eventually stopped, and a policeman informed me that the terrorist had been neutralized.
That’s when I finally got a glimpse of the horror that had unfolded. Bodies were scattered throughout the street in pools of blood. I sprang into action, assisting paramedic Aharon Amitay in providing lifesaving treatment to a teenage boy who had been shot in the abdomen. Aharon and I packed the wound in order to stop the bleeding and transferred the boy to an ambulance.
But this was only the beginning. The full extent of the tragedy soon became clear as we continued down the road, there were more dead bodies and they outnumbered the survivors. We walked from one body to the other in order to assess the situation of each person, but often there was nothing left for us to do as they were beyond saving. I saw the father of one victim frantically searching for his son, asking me if I had seen a boy with a hood. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I had seen his son lying on the floor, lifeless, his tzizit (religious garment) full of blood. The father walked over to the scene, crossing police tape, and found his son. His heart-wrenching reaction still haunts me.
This was a scene of utter devastation, one that I hope that I will never see the likes of again. I will carry these images with me for a long time. But even in the face of such tragedy, I take solace in the knowledge that I was able to help some of the injured. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve and to help. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who were taken from us in this terrible attack, and I pray for the strength and healing we all need in order to get through this difficult time.
Yosef Deshet is a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah who lives in Neve Yaakov with his family.