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Stories from the Streets: A Light in the Darkness

A recent Monday was a particularly difficult day for our first responders in Rehovot. Early in the morning our team responded to a fatal car accident that saw one person killed and others injured. 

Soon afterward another call came over the radio for a 40-year-old man who had collapsed at a vacation resort in Nes Ziona, a town just outside Rehovot and part of our district. A third holiday-related incident occurred when an elderly man at a party at his synagogue choked on celebratory doughnut called a sufganiya that is customarily eaten during the holiday. In spite of our team’s quick arrival and successful extrication of the food blockage from his throat, the man unfortunately passed away, as did the others earlier in the day.

Three fatalities on the second day of Chanukah, the holiday of light. Our team isn’t used to three fatalities on any day, but to have them happen during the holiday, two of them during celebrations, was really hard.

As the day came to an end, I headed for bed. It had been a long, difficult day for me as the chapter head. After the incidents occurred my day was filled with phone calls, debriefings, investigations into which volunteer responded to which incident and the procedures followed at each one, uncovering which volunteers required support and emotional stabilization from our psychotrauma team and other logistical items. At the end of all that, before climbing under the covers, I sat and thought, How much sadness and frustration can be packed into one day?

I asked the boss upstairs that he should perhaps be kind to us—after all, we are trying to help people and save lives; it would be nice if he let us. It is the holidays—and not just any holiday, but Chanukah. It is the festival of light, joy, happiness, and coming together as people. I asked that he not leave our volunteers with just bad stories from today, that perhaps there should be some good as well.

Maybe a quarter to 2 in the morning is a good time to pray, because less than 10 minutes passed from the time I sent up that silent prayer until my radio beeped again, alerting me to another emergency. This time the emergency concerned a woman in active labor in her home. The address was one street over from my house.

I rushed over and met another volunteer there. That sound—the sound of a baby taking its first breath and giving its first cry, the sound of a new life being brought into this world amid the silence of night—that sound can change and shatter worlds.

That is when the message of the day really hit me, and everything became clear. The Bible tells us that God appears with a soft, quiet voice at times, and we have to listen for it. On that Monday God’s message came through that baby’s cry. 

The message reminded me that in reality, there is no bad without good, and there is no good without bad. The world is a circle, with all parts following on the heel of another. That is how it always has been, and that is how it will always be. It was a hard day for the entire team, and it was nice to end it with a new life entering the world, with all the joy and light it brings to us all. 

So I say thank you to the creator of the world for sending us light in the middle of the darkness of that night. It was very much needed on that Monday.

Yoni Rotenberg is the chapter head of United Hatzalah in Rehovot.

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