IDF EMT unit saves Palestinians, Israelis and soldiers

Florit Shoihet

We join the IDF (Zahal)’s Judea and Samaria EMT unit who save lives day and night, treating Palestinians in 70% of the cases

Date: 03/01/2012, 1:12 PM     Author: Florit Shoihet

On an especially cold December night, the central Samarian city of Nablus sits peacefully adorned in the holiday lights. However, in an area where crisis can erupt at any given moment remaining alert and prepared is essential.

Between road accidents, births, and terrorist attacks, someone needs to be available with the finest medical equipment, ready to give first-class medical treatment at all times. Almost a decade ago, the IDF (Zahal) recognized the need for such a unit and established the Judea and Samaria military Emergency Medical Treatment (EMT) team. Until today, male and female soldiers continue to train in the Medical Corps in order to serve in hotspots such as Nablus, providing the best medical care for all who require it.

Being an IDF (Zahal) EMT

“The IDF (Zahal) Medical Corps’ fundamental oath is that we treat all people equally,” said Staff Sgt. Gal Ovales, a paramedic with the IDF (Zahal) EMT unit, “we are providing medical assistance and treatment to the citizens, the soldiers and the Palestinians.”

The Medic, Sgt. Elad Golan, who served in EMT teams in the Ephraim and Samaria regions, explained that “70% of the people we treat are Palestinians. I came to give the best treatment, without thinking about who or why. We are all human beings.”

A paramedic in the team, Gal, serves in several EMT teams in Judea and Samaria and has encountered several emergencies where both soldiers and Palestinian rioters have been injured. “It’s difficult,” she said, “on the one hand I take care of a soldier who was wounded by a stone or a firebomb, and on the other hand I treat the Palestinian who wounded him.”


IDF EMT unit saves Palestinians, Israelis and soldiers

“Everyone who is here really wants to be here, nobody was forced to serve in the unit,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dan Ushakov , a veteran driver with the Samaria EMT team. He has been riding with a well-equipped mobile EMT team for several years and participated in countless incidents. During an emergency, his role doubles; along with driving as fast (and as carefully) as he can, he also becomes the event manager, running the team in real-time. In many cases the EMT staff faces dangers and is attacked by Palestinian rioters throwing rocks and explosives at them as they treat the wounded.

“A few years ago, we were called to a traffic accident on a highway in the area and we were caught in a firefight. It was very scary,” remembered Sgt. 1st Class Ushakov. “Although the ambulance was damaged as a result, we were able to bring the wounded to safety.” The Judea and Samaria EMT team were the first to deal with several terrible events, such as the Itamar massacre, stabbings, and other attacks. Even thought they work closely with regional rescue forces, the IDF (Zahal) EMT are not authorized to operate in areas controlled by Palestinians (A areas).


IDF EMT unit saves Palestinians, Israelis and soldiers

Beyond the rewarding sense one gets from a successful mission, serving in a unit whose definition is saving lives bestows a special feeling. “The moble EMT unit, with all our means can do everything Magen David Adom can do, and since the closest medical services are coming from far away, that means a lot,” explains Sgt. Oveles.

A paramedic in the unit, Sgt. Elad, who recently participated in several significant rescues, remembered a recent incident treating an elderly Palestinian: “we got there first, and we started doing CPR for 20 minutes, and I felt a pulse. Suddenly I say, ‘wow, I feel a pulse! I have a pulse!’ We had saved her, it was a successful resuscitation,” he smiled, “there I really felt like I was doing something important.”

“This is a very special experience that you can’t get a lot of other places in the army, both because of the place in which we serve, and the situations we encounter,” said Gal.