My name is Eli Pollack, and in addition to being the CEO of United Hatzalah, I am also a volunteer first responder and EMT. One recent Sunday night I was visiting the southern town of Netivot to spend time with the local volunteers and help facilitate some new projects for our teams in the Gaza periphery region. I was in the middle of a meeting when we heard about rocket attacks in the nearby city of Sderot. For me, the surge of adrenaline and fear was just a small taste of what the residents of these areas have been going through for the past 18 years, since the first rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against the residents of southern Israel began.
I wrapped up the meeting and left Netivot, heading toward Sderot to see if I could help in any way. For me, a resident of Jerusalem, being present during a rocket attack is not a common thing, but there isn’t anyone in Israel who doesn’t know the feeling of shared dread when these attacks occur.
As I drove toward Sderot, the emergency app on my communication device alerted me to an emergency in my area. The incident was taking place at the Beit Gedi intersection. The alert said there was a life in danger inside a Nissan vehicle. I had no idea where the intersection was, so I put it into Waze. When I picked my head up, I saw a Nissan pulled over on the side of the road. I pulled up behind the vehicle and approached.
Inside the car was a woman suffering a severe stress reaction to the attack that had just occurred. “I can’t drive,” she told me. She was in a severe state of shock. “Please take me home,” she asked, breaking into tears.
I didn’t think twice. I got into her car and began driving her home. I asked her where she lived. “In Sderot,” she said. As we drove I tried to help her calm down by using various breathing techniques and the training I learned from our psychotrauma volunteers, who deal with these types of reactions all the time. Unfortunately I didn’t have too much success. I did, however, succeed at bringing her home to the loving embrace of her husband and children who were worried about her. They hadn’t heard from her since the attack.
This whole experience was incredibly difficult for me, as it brought home just how much pain the people living here are in. For me this was just a taste of the fear and terror the families here experience on a daily basis. It is very real and very damaging.
I am glad I was able to provide a little bit of help in this instance and proud of all of the volunteers we have in Sderot and throughout the region who not only live with the fear for their own families but manage to put it aside and help others even when they themselves are under the same threat as the people they treat. It is simply incredible.