Jewish teenagers train in emergency response
Jewish teenagers train in emergency responseUnited Hatzalah

Last Wednesday evening, a group of 50 teenagers hailing from various regions across the United States and Canada celebrated their graduation from the emergency medical response training course with United Hatzalah. These young participants were part of the NCSY Hatzalah Rescue program, an annual summer program that trains participants in EMS techniques and certifies them with emergency medical responder (EMR) training. The certification process is an intensive 60-hour course with full-day classes for more than a week, at the end of which these teenagers are officially recognized in Israel as registered EMRs.

To test their skills and preparedness, the newly minted EMRs engaged in an intensive drill held in Park Mexico within the Ben Shemen Forest near Modi’in. The drill realistically depicted a high-stress scenario with nearly 50 actors portraying individuals who were injured in a mass shooting and resulting car crash. The actors wore makeup simulating gruesome injuries and the drill incorporated smoke as well as special lighting and sound effects to add to the chaos and make the scenario more realistic.

Ten teams of five EMRs, each led by a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT, took part in the triage effort, provided initial treatment, and swiftly transported the "victims" to ambulances. This hands-on experience allowed them to put into practice all the essential skills instilled by their rigorous training. Having successfully completed the drill, participants in the program will now be going on real-life ambulance shifts for the next week and a half, in tandem with United Hatzalah volunteers across the center of the country.

Rachel Buller from Manhattan described her impressions from the drill, saying, “It was one of the most unique things I have ever done. Excitement rushed through me as I stepped into the smoke-filled scene and began treating the patients. The feeling of approaching a casualty and knowing how to help was unreal and empowering. Although the environment was stress-inducing, we all kept calm and completed our mission.”

Jonah Lerner, NCSY Regional Director of the Atlantic Seaboard spoke about the deeper meaning of the program, saying, “It's a really important opportunity for these teens to understand how to give back to the Jewish people, and what better place to give back than in Israel? They could learn these skills in America but it's a whole different feeling when you're doing it and seeing people every day at United Hatzalah who are out there volunteering for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. I think it's a really meaningful experience.”

Marc Zharnest, NCSY Hatzalah Rescue program director, added: “The drill, is really the moment where everyone rises to the occasion and realizes that the training that they spent 60 hours on can help them save lives. It's a truly special scene to witness teenagers perform so cool, calm, and collected, under pressure and rely on the instincts of their training. This year, as in previous years, the group once again rose to the occasion and performed remarkably well. Year after year, no matter what we throw at them, they continue to perform like true champions. What's really remarkable is the next day they jump right into their shifts which are not scripted unlike the drill, and showcase their true abilities and actually save real lives on the ambulances.”

"Seeing these teenagers graduate from our emergency medical response training fills me with immense pride," Eli Beer, President, and Founder of United Hatzalah, remarked with satisfaction. "Their dedication and commitment have been truly impressive. I believe they have a bright future ahead in the field of EMS, and their passion for helping others will undoubtedly make a positive impact in their communities. With their newfound skills, I'm confident they'll be able to save lives and contribute significantly to the world of emergency medical services both in Israel and back in the U.S. and Canada. It's a privilege to witness the next generation stepping up to make a real difference."