Since 2013, over 2,600 Syrians wounded in their country’s six-year-long war have been treated in Israel after coming to the border for medical care. Before they’re transferred to hospitals, paramedics provide immediate care at the border. We talked to Cpl. Yoad, one of these paramedics.  

An IDF soldier on treating wounded Syrians

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Cpl. Yoad: The hardest thing for me is seeing wounded children. There was a whole family that was hurt – a mother, a son, and a little girl. They were all in critical condition. The mother suffered a terrible stomach injury, and so did her daughter – her intestines were sticking out. The son needed a respirator and was unconscious with a head injury. From the translator, we learned that a missile hit their home. We laid the little girl down next to her mother and brother, treated them, and the mother and daughter were sent to one hospital and the son to another.

It was so hard for them to be separated, and for the little girl to see her mother in that condition. It’s not always easy to see these things, and it’s not easy to keep a clear head all the time. When the work gets to me, I talk to the other paramedics, and we lift each other up. It really helps.          

An IDF soldier on treating wounded Syrians

How does it differ from being a first responder in Magen David Adom (MADA), Israel’s emergency medical service?

There’s a difference between seeing the wounded people that you see in MADA and the conditions that Syrian casualties arrive in. In MADA, the wounds are fresh – traffic accidents, bad falls – that’s one thing. The Syrians are traveling for miles from a warzone – treating them is completely different. In MADA, the injuries occurred ten, fifteen, twenty minutes ago, tops. With the Syrians who come for help, it could have happened two hours ago, and you’re trying to keep him alive and conscious. People come in with terrible wounds. It’s a completely different situation from MADA.  

Syria and Israel are enemy countries. What would you say to people who think you’re treating your enemy?

Anyone who thinks that can go to a hospital, open a door to room, and see an injured Syrian two-year-old. When they see the patients themselves, they start to see it differently. It’s easy to say things, but the minute they see the actual people we’re treating, it becomes another situation. These people aren’t our enemies.

An IDF soldier on treating wounded Syrians

How did you feel when you learned that you’d be working with Syrians?

When I got my posting on the Syrian border, I knew I would be treating wounded Syrians. In the course, we learn to treat any human being who needs help. It doesn’t matter who they are, or what they are – we give them the care that they need. We’re dealing with human beings who were caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t do, with children who suffer terrible injuries. Like the seven-year-old girl who had a missile hit her house. She had no agenda. There’s no reason I shouldn’t help her.   

How do you feel about your position now?

When you live in this country where you have so much, you really don’t realize how good you have it. The people we treat are struggling just to survive. To be able to help them really gives you a feeling of tremendous satisfaction. I don’t know how to explain it – these people are getting hurt just because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. To help them without wanting anything in return, to help them because you can, is so gratifying. It’s indescribable.