In the immediate aftermath of the October 7 massacre on Israel’s southern border, three Hamilton area physicians, Daniel Kollek, Ira Price, and Michael Schweitzer, waited expectantly for the phone call from Magen David Adom they knew was coming. When the call came in days later, accompanied by the question, “When can you come?” Ira Price felt an immediate sense of relief.
“It was a sense that I was able to go and do something to help my family who was under threat. And I had to see for myself.”
“We all sit there, we watch what’s going on and we eat ourselves alive,” said Kollek. “Here, at least I could do something.”
That “something” was serving as volunteer paramedics with Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank to fill in for those called up for military service. When the HJN caught up with the three doctors during the third week of October, they were approaching the end of their week-long stint working on ambulance teams in the Ashdod region.
Their days, said Michael Schweitzer, were filled answering routine emergency calls, “the usual things, chest pains, work related injuries,” notwithstanding the all too frequent “red alert” sirens that saw them pull over and take shelter before carrying on with their duties.
Schweitzer, who has volunteered with Magen David Adom on several other occasions, was taken with the “tremendous sense of unity and resilience” he found among the people he encountered.
“People have moved on from shock to determination that this will be the last time that anything like this ever happens and to do whatever’s necessary to make sure that Israel’s safety is secure.”
Daniel Kollek spoke about the “incredible pain” Israelis were feeling, reeling from the more than 1,000 funerals that were taking place in the country that week.
“There’s a lot of sadness, but there is incredible resolve ... and this is an unbeatable people,” he said.
Ira Price had a similar impression. “It’s a really interesting time here. There’s a sense of fear and depression, where streets are empty, and people staying at home. On the other hand, you feel a sense of unity like you’ve never felt. Every single person here is family.”
Asked if Israel was undergoing an existential crisis akin to how Israelis felt on the eve of the Six Day War when fear gripped the country, Daniel Kollek answered in the negative.
“This is not an existential situation in the sense of the destruction of the state,” said Kollek. “There is a sense that it’s going to be a huge financial burden. So many people called up and not working. There’s no revenue coming in, and the cost of maintaining an army this size is incredible. So financially there’s going to be a cost. But existential? No.”
Michael Schweitzer agreed. “There’s a tremendous mood of determination to see this through,” he said.
Ira Price believes it’s the “Jewish nation” that’s facing an existential crisis.
“I’m not worried so much about Israel as much as I’m worried about the nation,” he said. “As you can see from the mobs around the world that are beating people in the street ... the land is just an excuse.”
“I believe we can have peace with our Palestinian cousins ... we have to show empathy and right now it’s hard for people to do that, so hopefully, with time. Israel is strong. One thing we’re not doing is going anywhere.”
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