Volunteering with Magen David Adom

It was midday in the Negev. My partner Michaela Yancey and I were riding on the lavan Magen David Adom ambulance heading back to the Yerucham Station after dropping a patient at Be’er Sheva Medical Center. Suddenly, a notification appeared on the small tablet in the driver’s seat – לידה spelled out in Hebrew on the display, “birth” in English  We confirmed the request for help and started our drive to Hura, a Bedouin village around 25 minutes outside of Be’er Sheva.

When I decided to join the 35th cohort of Nativ after graduating from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Maryland in 2015, I had many aspirations for how to develop spiritually, religiously, socially, and academically on my gap-year before college. One of my goals, however, was to deliver a baby. Many other friends of mine who attended Nativ from my community in Potomac had been in the right place at the right time and all delivered babies on their year’s abroad while serving with MDA, Israel’s National Emergency Medical Response and Ambulance Service. On March 10, 2016, the team on our ambulance was afforded the opportunity to bring a new life into the world, which to be honest was one of the most stomach-churning, yet meaningful experience I have ever had in my entire life. After a couple of scary moments unwrapping the umbilical cord off of the baby’s neck, we successfully delivered a healthy and crying baby boy to his mother and father in the medical clinic of this small Bedouin village. After wishing a ‘Mazel Tov’ and heading outside to the sidewalk, a couple of Arab children came up and started talking with us. After a quick conversation while handing the baby off to the advanced ambulance and before heading back to Yerucham, they sent us on our way with “Shalom Alechem.” Between the newborn Bedouin body and his family, the Jewish kippah-wearing medics and volunteers from all over the world, and the Arab boys on the sidewalk, it was amazing to see completely separate cultures and different peoples come together to help each other in the moment.

All of the experiences I had while living in Israel provided me perspective into my own life and still benefit me every day in college at Emory University in Atlanta. I am frequently asked about my gap-year in Israel and my volunteering with MDA.

Though not every day on Nativ was spent racing across the Negev to deliver babies, much of my Nativ experience was enhanced by my volunteering with Magen David Adom. When I first looked into gap-year programs, I knew I wanted to learn more and challenge by beliefs while also having a rich opportunity to volunteer. Nativ fit the bill. Not every day is easy while living in a foreign country with new people, and at first I was intimidated. However, it was arguably the tougher days and medical events that challenged my beliefs, enhanced my identity as a Jew, and changed my life for the better. Through my studies at the Conservative Yeshiva; to backpacking with friends during chaggim and trips all over the country; to living in an apartment on my own in a small desert village; to revisiting and connecting with family; to my experiences on the ambulances and in the communities in Be’er Sheva, Yerucham, and Dimona, I left Israel instilled with a love for learning and volunteering, backed by a rich community of many like-minded and passionate individuals on Nativ 35. Shabbat Shalom!

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