It was a peaceful Friday night after the Shabbat meal. My son and I left the house to go learn Torah together at the local synagogue. A few moments later, the calm was shattered by the sound of gunfire.
At first, we thought it was the sound of IDF soldiers training, which we are used to hearing in the neighborhood. But as the shooting grew louder and neighbors screamed “terrorist,” the reality of the situation hit me. I quickly reported an active shooting incident to United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center and I quickly took my son home to ensure his safety. Once there, I grabbed my medical trauma kit and bulletproof vest. My wife did not want me to go. I explained that I was needed to save lives and I would be extremely careful. She reluctantly accepted this.
As I rushed to the scene, the shooting continued, relentless and deafening. I repeatedly radioed for backup, warning fellow first responders not to get too close to the scene until the shooting stopped. The gunfire eventually ceased and a policeman informed me that the terrorist had been neutralized.
That’s when I finally got a glimpse of the horror that had unfolded. Bodies were scattered across the street in pools of blood. I sprang into action, assisting paramedic Aharon Amitay in providing lifesaving treatment to a teenage boy who had been shot in the abdomen. Aharon and I packed the wound to stop the bleeding and transferred the boy to an ambulance.
But this was only the beginning. The full extent of the tragedy soon became clear as we continued down the road. There were more dead bodies and they outnumbered the survivors. We walked from one body to the other to assess the condition of each person, but often there was nothing left for us to do. They were beyond saving. I saw the father of one victim frantically searching for his son, asking me if I had seen a boy with a hood. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I had seen his son lying on the floor, lifeless, his tzizit drenched in blood. The father walked over to the scene, crossed the police tape and found his son. His heart-wrenching reaction still haunts me.
This was a scene of utter devastation. I hope I will never see its like again. I will carry the images of it for a long time. But even in the face of such tragedy, I take solace in the knowledge that I was able to aid some of the injured. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve and to help. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who were taken from us in this terrible attack, and I pray for the strength and healing we all need to get through this difficult time.
Yossef Deshet is a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah who lives in Neve Yaakov with his family.