By: Rebecca Aduculesi, News Editor
Going into NCSY Hatzalah Rescue, I really didn’t know what to expect. I applied to be an advisor on the program almost on a whim; I was sifting through the NCSY Summer packet that was mailed to my house, and I happened upon a program that combined medicine and inspiring Jewish teenagers. These are two things I am quite passionate about, so with little information on what the program actually entailed, I applied. A few months later, I was on a flight to Eretz Yisrael with thirty-four high school kids from across the country. And that was just the beginning.
I am often asked what Hatzalah Rescue is all about. “Are you an EMT? Did you ride around in an ambulance all day? Did you save any lives?” The answer to all these questions is no.
Shortly after arriving in Eretz Yisrael, the high-schoolers and staff members took a sixty-hour course spanning several days in order to become certified as emergency medical responders (EMR), which is a step below an EMT. In order to train to become an EMT, as opposed to training to become an EMR, one would have to complete an additional sixty hours of training and pass an exam. Nonetheless, an EMR certification is enough to allow a group of rowdy teenagers to ride around in ambulances with EMTs and literally be the first responders to real life emergencies.
I learned a lot of things on Hatzalah Rescue, and most of them did not come from the sixty-hour EMR course. Being surrounded by teenagers all day, I learned that there is often much more to a person than first meets the eye. I quickly learned that so many of the happy, peppy, go-with-the-flow kids were actually dealing with tremendous hardships and challenges back at home. Hearing their stories was enough to bring me to tears, and I have never davened shemoneh esrei (a Jewish prayer) with such emotion as I did when davening for them.
Another immensely valuable lesson I learned is to always ask people how they are doing. Probably 95% of the time you’ll get a “doing well thanks how about you,” but for the 5% of scenarios when someone is on the brink of tears and desperate to pour their heart out to someone, just asking a simple question can make all the difference.
Besides riding around on ambulance shifts, a large part of the program was touring Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). We travelled to all the holy sites, rowed banana boats in Eilat, and went repelling in Mitzpei Rimon. Through it all, I learned another valuable lesson: you can influence others most strongly by just being yourself. It is one thing to preach, but it is another thing to practice what you preach. There were so many instances in which kids came up to me and told me they respect a religious action I did, not because I told them about it, but because they watched me do it. There is a power to lead by example, and I saw that quite prominently on Hatzalah Rescue.
I can go on about a million and one things that I gained from Hatzalah Rescue, but I will end with one. Being in Eretz Yisrael for the summer reminded me that Eretz Yisrael is where we belong. Yes, galus (exile) is extraordinarily comfortable and convenient. But there is a certain kedusha (holiness) to Eretz Yisrael that one can feel but not explain. As Jews, it is crucial to constantly return to Eretz Yisrael in order to remind ourselves of where home truly is, and IYH we will all get to the point in our lives when we can move there permanently. Eretz Yisrael is where every Jew is meant to be, and IY”H (with G-d’s help) mashiach (messiah) will come bimheira biyameinu (speedily and in our days). See you at the mikdash (Temple)!