Israeli Arab Volunteers: Unity in Times of Crisis

Israeli Arab Volunteers: Unity in Times of Crisis

In the past six years since its inception, Gaber Abo Gafer’s leadership has seen the Rahat Chapter of United Hatzalah grow immensely.

The sudden escalation of conflict between Hamas and Israel on October 7th thrust Rahat Chapter volunteers into action. These brave responders attended to five missile impacts in Rahat on that single day. Since then, they’ve been on the frontline, offering medical assistance and distributing humanitarian aid to Rahat locals and first responders near Gaza.

Beyond immediate medical aid, the chapter’s contributions underscore a broader theme of unity and fellowship. A notable illustration of this spirit was when the Rahat volunteers, in collaboration with the local community, converted an unused kosher food factory in Rahat into a kitchen to prepare warm meals for soldiers and frontline responders.

Shabbat, a day of rest, showcased the fraternity even more profoundly. Muslim members from the Rahat Chapter relieved their Jewish counterparts by taking over ambulance shifts near Gaza.

Gaber Abo Gafer emphasizes the dual challenges of war. Responders aren’t only racing against time to provide medical aid, but they also need to ensure their safety. An incident on October 9th saw Abo Gafer attending to an emergency in Rahat with limited protective gear due to its scarcity. Samara Ala, who oversees Muslim and Christian sectors of United Hatzalah, notes that while they have 70 volunteers in Rahat, there’s only one protective gear set available. This lack of equipment inhibits their capacity to attend emergencies outside their immediate locality during these tumultuous times. The call for more donations is evident, as they need to equip every volunteer adequately.

Volunteers from Rahat preparing kosher food for soldiers and first responders in the Gaza Periphery.jpeg
United Hatzallah volunteers handing out medical supplies and food to IDF soldiers near the Gaza Border

Although United Hatzalah has procured some protective vests for the Rahat Chapter, the demand surpasses the supply.

Detailing the wider scope, Samara Ala reveals there are over 700 Muslim and Christian volunteers spanning from Galilee to the southern Negev under United Hatzalah. These heroes don’t discriminate based on religion or nationality, emphasizing their commitment to saving lives. The current conflict has seen them more active than ever, renewing equipment, upskilling with training, and liaising with local governments. Their mantra remains constant: to assist any medical emergencies and save lives. The Arab units of United Hatzalah, in particular, have been notably active, with a significant number of Muslim volunteers attending to emergencies during Shabbat in the Gaza vicinity. Tragically, some members have lost their lives or have been injured in the conflict.

About Rahat’s United Hatzalah Chapter:

Rahat, primarily an Arab Bedouin city in southern Israel, is home to nearly 80,000 residents. The Rahat Chapter of United Hatzalah not only serves this population but also attends to emergencies in surrounding Arab communities and travelers in the region. Over the years, the chapter has expanded to 70 dedicated first responders, of which 11 are women.

Their unwavering commitment, both during times of peace and war, has made them indispensable to United Hatzalah’s mission.

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