A day in the life of a Muslim EMT in Jerusalem

I am proud that I can help people regardless of faith or nationality.

A United Hatzalah medical team in Tzfat checks its gear as Israel prepares for an impending storm, Feb.16, 2021. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
A United Hatzalah medical team in Tzfat checks its gear as Israel prepares for an impending storm, Feb.16, 2021. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
Ramzi Batesh
Ramzi Batesh

My name is Ramzi Batesh and I live in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa. I work at the dispatch center of United Hatzalah and as one of the organization’s volunteer EMTs and ambucycle drivers.

This past Friday, I saved three people who were suffering medical emergencies. This isn’t necessarily unusual, but there was something unique about it because of who I treated and where.

The day began with morning prayers. Then I received and responded to a medical emergency involving a Jewish man who had suffered a seizure. I treated him by protecting his head, in order to make sure he didn’t sustain any serious injury, and providing oxygen.

When I returned home, I prepared for the main Friday prayers I planned to attend at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. I drove to the Old City and, as I arrived at the parking lot in the Jewish Quarter, I received an alert of a medical emergency involving an unconscious person in the nearby Muslim Quarter. I sped over to the address given and was joined by two Jewish EMTs, Shlomo Eisenman and Yagel Mizrachi, who I know well.

We found a man in his 60s unconscious on the floor of his apartment. He was not breathing and had no pulse. Together with Shlomo and Yagel, I attached a defibrillator and we performed a full CPR protocol including chest compressions and assisted ventilation, as well as two shocks from the defibrillator.

We continued our efforts for over 30 minutes, together with a mobile intensive care ambulance crew that arrived sometime later. In the end, we succeeded in regaining a pulse and the man began to breathe again. He was transported to the hospital in serious but stable condition. I had missed prayers, but I was saving a life, which is always more important.

As I was gathering up my equipment to head home, I received another alert. This time it was a medical emergency at the Jaffa Gate. I raced over on my ambucycle and was directed by a worried family member into the Christian Quarter, where I found a Christian man suffering from severe shortness of breath. I provided him with high-flow oxygen and his oxygen saturation levels slowly increased. I stayed with the man until an ambulance arrived and the crew transported him to the hospital.

Every day, I sit in the dispatch center and direct our volunteers to treat people of all ages, faiths and nationalities; people who are just like me and in need of medical care. When I finish my shift, I become the volunteer and, assisted by other dispatchers, respond to emergencies in order to help people regardless of racial or religious boundaries.

For me, it is a source of pride that I work and volunteer with like-minded people, who all believe that no matter who requires help, we will be there to help them. We believe this because we are all, before everything else, human, and the value of human life supersedes all other boundaries. In this, we are united.

Ramzi Batesh is as a dispatcher at United Hatzalah’s headquarters in Jerusalem and volunteers as an EMT and head of the eastern Jerusalem chapter of the organization. He lives in Beit Safafa in Jerusalem with his family.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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