Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Weekend in Northern Israel

A Weekend in Northern Israel - sticky post for 2 days.
(Updated ending as well) Please see below this posting for daily updates, news and analysis.

Deciding last week to volunteer for Magen David Adom (Israel's emergency medical services) -- and be sent up to help in a Northern Israel community as an MDA ambulance driver/EMT was actually a very difficult decision for me.

To tell you the honest truth, I was scared.

I do alot of scary things...being a Hatzala and MDA EMT volunteer, who's on call around the clock -- I unfortunately see all sorts of pretty gory scenes. Mass casualty attacks, terror attacks, horrendous car accidents, or just something ordinary -- like a heart attack victim who needs CPR -- all of these situations have a "scariness" factor to them.

Running after terrorists is another situation with a high scariness factor -- getting a message in the middle of the night that the fence has been cut, and there may be a terrorist running around means I grab my M-16 rifle and run out the door. Maybe it's easier because there isn't any time to contemplate the danger involved -- you just act based on your training and try to do what needs to be done.

But this was completely different.

Last Wednesday I read all about the new deadly "ingredients" in the Katyusha rockets -- 30-40 kilo of ball bearings, that turn close to molten during the quick Katyusha flight from Lebanon to Israel, and how they explode out in all directions causing immense damage.

Yet, swallowing my fear, on Friday morning I collected another 3 MDA volunteers, and we drove up North. With rising anticipation, I started getting serious butterflies in my stomach when we reached Afula -- the southernmost town in Northern Israel to be hit by Hizbolla's rockets. Everything seemed to be moving faster and faster in Afula -- everyone running around to get things done before the next rocket attack.

Everyone on edge.

We kept on driving North and stopped to take a picture at Har Tavor...knowing full well, we had just entered "Katyusha Rocket Country"

We kept going...and eventually reached "Tzomet Amiad" -- the Amiad intersection. Normally, this simple intersection has no importance to anyone...but in the past 18 days, this intersection is mentioned on radio and TV stations countless times a day. Tzomet Amiad is the unofficial "border" used by IDF HomeFront command to determine what level of preparedness you need.

North of Tzomet Amiad, and you need to be in the direct proximity of a bomb shelter at all times. South of the intersection, and you can take it a bit easier.

Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the MDA Station House of our destination. A quiet, sleepy town that has no notoriety or fame...yet had already been the victim of a numerous Katyusha strikes over the past few weeks.

Normally at MDA stations around Israel, the ambulances are neatly parked one next to the other in a covered area of the parking lot. Not anymore.

Ambulances are now placed at distances from each other, so that if G-d forbid there is a rocket attack at an MDA station -- the likelihood of all the ambulances getting damaged is minimized. My ambulance was even parked outside the station across the street.

Looking northwards at the mountains overlooking the station, most of the trees and greenery had been burned black by brush fires resulting from countless Katyusha strikes.

The estimates I've heard are that it will take JNF another 40 years to return the Galil to the green forest situation that Israel enjoyed only a few weeks ago.

We are given a quick overview by the Station Manager. When the Air-Raid sirens go off, you drop everything, put on a bulletproof vest and run for the station's bomb shelter.

Little did I realize how much time I was going to be spending in this bomb shelter.

The time ticked by since we arrived, and everything was quiet...there was a feeling of nervous anticipation in the air. Someone called my name -- I needed to do a "service call" and accompany an additional ambulance driver to the MDA Station in Tzefat, and then drive the modified ambulance back to our station. Sounded like a simple milk run...nothing to it. I took one additional person from my dedicated ambulance crew, and off we went.

About 7 minutes into the ride...my MEERS (nextel) phone started beeping -- one of our MDA colleagues back at the station was yelling something, but I didn't make out what he was saying. I asked him to repeat it, and he nervously said, "Air raid sirens are going off...follow the protocol!"

The "protocol" means, stop your vehicle, put on a bulletproof vest and helmet, and find cover as quickly as possible OUTSIDE your vehicle. My crew member and I ran for the concrete bus shelter alongside the road, and crawled underneath it as much as possible...while the other driver didn't seem very impressed. He just mosied on over not wearing a vest, and asked if we were having fun. We said it would be stupid to die from shrapnel when a vest could save a life. The sirens continued to blare and we heard a boom in the distance.

The sirens stopped, and we quickly got back on board and continued driving...without removing any protective gear, no matter how hot we were...no matter how uncomfortable. I just wanted to get to the station in Tzefat, drop this guy off, and get back to our station as quickly as possible.

As we drove up the mountainside to Tzefat, the Air Raid sirens started up again, and we heard more explosions. Approaching the final turn to the Tzefat MDA station, I saw a plume of smoke rising up...a katuyusha rocket has narrowly missed the MDA station in Tzefat...by 10 meters. All the windows facing the rocket were blown in...

We stopped for a second so the driver could hastily put on his vest and helmet (apparently he had a very quick change of mind when he saw the rocket strike next to the MDA station), so I took the opportunity to snap a picture (all rights reserved to the Muqata blog).

Quickly, we raced up ahead to the station to let our driver off, so I could turn around and drive back, but the Tzefat Station manager wouldn't hear of it.

"Get in the shelter," he yelled, "there's warnings of more rockets on their way!"

So, we ran into the station's shelter...I called my wife to tell her I was OK, and miraculously, no one was hurt by the rocket strike.

A few minutes later, we got the all clear signal, so I took a few more pictures and we zoomed on back.

Driving faster than I can ever recall, we zoomed back to our station in record time, and everyone wanted to know what happened. Rumors abounded of a direct hit on the Tzefat MDA station, but I had the pictures to prove them wrong...it was very close...but not a direct hit, and no one was hurt.

It took some time to calm down.

The Station Manager told me that for the religious volunteers, he would bend over backwards to do whatever he could to make sure we had as enjoyable a shabbat as possible...he said the room with the TV would always have the door closed, he would instruct people not to talk publicly on their cellphones on shabbat...and I told him not to worry.

He showed me a box he had just received from the IDF -- the official IDF military spec "Shabbat Kit" which was being distributed to all MDA stations around Northern Israel by the IDF Homefront command.

In perfect military fashion, the MilSpec Shabbat Kit had every part numbered and serialized:

001. Wine for Kiddush - qty: 1 bottle
002. Plastic Wine Cups - qty: 10
003. Shabbat Candles - qty: 4
004. Matches - qty: 1 box
005. Havdala Candle - qty: 1
006. IDF Siddur - qty: 1
007. Talit - qty: 1
008. Talit bag - qty: 1
009. Parashat Shavua Booklet - qty: 2
010. Chocolates - qty: 1 box
011. Lolipops - qty: 4
012. Dvar Torah sheets - qty 1
013. Halacha Questions & Answers (for week of Tisha B'Av) - qty: 1
014. Bisamim (spices for Havdala) - qty: 1 package
015. Kippot (Yarmulkas) - qty: 10

How can you not feel proud of our Jewish army, when they do something SO right?

This week, many different rabbis were trying to posit what poor behaviors of Israel and the Jewish people was the "reason" for the current war. Was it the "Gay Parade" scheduled to march in Jerusalem? Was it the lack of modestly dressed people? Previous Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was asked this exact question this past week -- and he angrily answered as follows:

I suggest that instead of people trying to accuse the Jewish people...and being prosecutors against them...they should adopt the opposite strategy, and be advocates of the Jewish people. Look at the tremendous outpouring of love and concern for the Jews of Northern Israel...what a wonderful people the Jewish nation can be.

Shabbat came quickly...as did additional Air Raid Sirens. Each siren sent us scampering to find out bullet proof vests, and running into the bomb shelter. Within 30 seconds of the Air Raid siren, the rockets would fall...and we would feel the bomb shelter shake and hear the explosions. Just after midnight, a huge explosion threw me off my mattress -- apparently, the Air Raid sirens sometimes go off only after the rocket's strike...and not before. I grabbed my vest and ran for the bomb shelter...another 30 minutes went by before the "all clear" was given.

The next day, there were rockets landing all day long -- even in our area, as we constantly ran back and forth into the bomb shelter...listened for the explosions, and waited to see if we were called out.

We were very lucky (or I guess, the town we were in was very lucky)...with all the rocket strikes, there were zero injuries on shabbat, and we didn't even have to go out on one ambulance call.

I prefer it that way...

Yet even though I'm now back at home, the haunting sound of the air raid siren keeps echoing in my head. I could barely concentrate on shabbat to daven or read the parasha, expecting the sirens to go off at any second.

It's very late now, but I had to put my initial thoughts into words...I'll finish this posting tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: I went to bed last night with a feeling that this posting wasn't finished...and definitely not adequately.

I can't put my finger on it exactly -- what is missing? I guess I could have written another 10 paragraphs about shabbat -- how everyone in the MDA station ate shabbat meals together -- secular and religious -- and sang shabbat songs together. Or maybe how the IDF decided we needed additional re-enforcements at 1:00 AM and brought in 3 more IDF medics and a doctor. Or maybe describe the people in the town (which was mostly abandoned) that walked around on shabbat. There's also the halachik questions and answers from the MilSpec Shabbat kit -- what does a soldier do on Tisha B'Av...leather army boots, eating/drinking/fasting...

I guess I'll end the posting like this: For so many IDF soldiers and emergency services workers and volunteers, the support and motivation they get comes first and foremost from their families. A week and a half ago, my wife was already asking me about going up north to volunteer, and even though the kids just came home early Friday morning -- she felt it was extremely important to go up north and "do our part".

Without their support and encouragement, we'd have no chance -- and the families deserve everyone's thanks and admiration as much (if not more) than those who go to the front lines.
Updated again: Now I remember what I wanted to add. My mood last week could be described like this:
Thursday: Nervous Anticipation of the unkonown.
Friday Morning: Fear while driving up.
Friday Afternoon: Massive adrenaline rush when we were under fire.
Shabbat Morning: Sadness...comprehending what a mess we were in.
Shabbat Afternoon to present: Steely Determination to do what needs to be done...so that we win this war, and get our soldiers home alive.

Reminder: Magen David Adom and Hatzala Israel are working around the clock to provide the best emergency rescue support possible -- to the civilian population and supporting the IDF as well. I personally saw an out of commission MDA ambulance on Friday -- it's windows were blown out by a rocket's blast. A brand new replacement arrived in the middle of shabbat, and we had to quickly outfit it with equipment to bring it to "ready for use" status. Hatzala Israel volunteers provide backup to MDA by providing much-needed additional coverage, equipment (much of mine is from them as well), and motorcycles for volunteers to reach those needing help as quickly as possible. MDA and Hatzala work very well together, and it's a pleasure when these two organizations can compliment each other. If you haven't given tzedaka yet to support the war effort in Israel, both of these organizations are very worthwhile.

Shavua Tov - a good week to us all.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


queeniesmom said...

B"H you are safe and made it safely to Tsafat and back. May Hashem watch over you and all of klal yisroel.

May we see a quick end to this and a safe return of all our soldiers.

Shavoah tov.

The back of the hill said...

Bravo for volunteering.

But we worry about you, and wish you to always return safely.

I am somwhat baffled at the disparity between talis (one), lollipops (four), and keppels (ten).
Counting on enough men for a minyan, but only four people with a sweet-tooth?

Sarah Likes Green said...

wow... thank you for sharing your experiences.
B'H that no one was hurt and your returned safely.

bec said...

glad to know you're okay. you were in our prayers this weekend (as was all of israel, as usual.)

okay, here's a weird question, but is the tallis bag really necessary for shabbos? i mean, couldn't you trade the bag for extra lollipops?

Isaac Moses said...

What are you going to carry the lollipops in, if not a tallit bag?

Jameel, this post made me cry. You are my hero for today. May God look upon your brave chessed, and that of the IDF, and all of the brave chessed flowing North in Israel, and make it all successful. May God save the people who need saving, strike down the people who need striking down, and cheer the people who need cheering, all with the help of His Armies, whether they bear stretchers, arms, or lollipops.

Jack Steiner said...

Glad to hear that you are ok.

Jordan said...

Amazing going up there to care for those who are being targeted. This is an excellent example of why we prevail as a people.

FrumGirl said...

Oh, Jameel, you are a true hero! Start a fan club, I'll join it for sure! I am glad you are safe.

Jim said...

Thank G-d for you Jameel, and may He bless all the people of Israel everywhere.

The Jewish Freak said...

You have made this war more real than anyone else has, I hope everyone reads this.
Also, thank you for your MDA service.

Lion of Zion said...

Thank God you are home. The first thought that came to my mind after reading your account is "holy you-know-what!"

Shira Salamone said...

Baruch Hashem that you're home in one piece. Eventually, my link will show up--I put in a pitch for contributions to JNF. My prayers are with all the people of Eretz Yisrael.

JoeSettler said...

Great pictures. Shame you couldn't snap the picture of ther missile right before it hit. That would have been really cool.

have popcorn will lurk said...

Kol HaKavod. I had goosebumps looking at the pics of the Tzefat rocket strike. I am glad you are safe!

Were you the only frum Jew there for the weekend? Do you get to keep the official IDF military spec "Shabbat Kit"??


Thanks for the great post.
God bless Israel.

westbankmama said...

Baruch Hashem you are ok, and a big yasher koach to you. I am also thrilled to see that even the IDF sees the importance of chocolate - definitely necessary for Shabbat!

rockofgalilee said...

it is pretty scary when the boom goes off right next to you.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rock: Yeah...hearing the booms from far away isn't that much fun either.

Chana: There were a few of us religious there in the station.

I was thinking about asking for the tallit/tallit-bag/siddur -- but decided it was important for it to stay in the station for someone who may need it more than me. The picture was all that was really needed anyway.

I will try to finish this post later today...

tafka PP said...

Amen to WBM re chocolate

JoeSettler said...

What happened to your nazi fan club?

Elie said...

Wow is all I can say! Thank God you made it home safe and sound.

Neil Harris said...

Wow! What an incredible thing to do.

Unknown said...

Jameel, you're the man.

Just Passing Through said...

Great post Jameel! Gives a real perspective of what everyone there is going through.

PsychoToddler said...

This is a horrible war. But one think these Hezbulla scum have been able to do that no one else has been able to do in maybe 40 years is galvanize the country and unite the people.

Maybe that's the real reason G-d sent us this war.

Lion of Zion said...


"Maybe that's the real reason G-d sent us this war."

It isn't worth it. If we are ascribing Divine motives, God should have a better plan to encourage achdus.

Dave said...

As a Jew, thank you for what you are doing

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Yasher Koach Jameel. Thanks for sharing Rav Eliyahu's admonishment, I needed to hear that.

YMedad said...

First we had "Muqata". Then "Jameel". The RebRen started in with "Jameelie". And now, you bring us this "James" character. What a unique blog. ;>)

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Well, anyone who names their blog "The Last Gasp of the Zionist Parasite" and whose main criticism of the first people to reject idol worship is that they are commiting idolotry obviously has mental issues. I think this James guy probably deserves our pity more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

No, he doesn't. He'll get the truth he seeks, some day...

JJ said...

Amazing post, Jameel. I am simply in awe of you and all the soldiers, medics, and volunteers who risk their lives to serve Israel and keep us safe. Those pathetic terrorists have NOTHING on you guys.

Thanks for this post- and for doing so much for your country.

orthomom said...

Jameel, thank you. Yasher Koach. James, go somewhere else.


James, James, go away. Come again some other day. Notr anytime soon though. LOL

The back of the hill said...

John 3:19-21

Oh goodie, a missionary. And a gnostic, at that.

Fie, fie.

[Now please imagine that I have am wearing garlic around my neck, and have a string of it in my office cubicle...]

Unknown said...

Jameel - I was in tears reading your post.

James - I don't get your point...fires spread.



James, maybe you should print it out and send flyers to the Hezloblah & Humas leaders.

Bible Verse
- John 3:19-21 -

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved
darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does
evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his
deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through

Many people don't want their lives exposed to God's light because they are
afraid of what will be revealed. They don't want to be changed. Don't be
surprised when these same people are threatened by your desire to obey God
and do what is right, because they are afraid that the light in you may
expose some of the darkness in their lives. Rather than giving in to
discouragement, keep praying that they will come to see how much better it
is to live in light than in darkness.


Hey you all. Do not pay attention to the man behind the curtain. He happens to be a MICHEAL MOORE SUPPORTER. Explains it. I went to the sites he participates in. Now the truth is known.

Ignore is the best way. Let them run off at the mouth all they want. They are useless. Just ignore. Not worthy of any debates.


Ps..I was talking about the poster "JAMES". How sad they are. Pray for them is all I can say!

JoeSettler said...

Wow! Not only Nazi wannabees but Holocaust Deniers too. Jameel, you are just a magnet.

I love it when these guys show off their ignorance.

From "How Wildfires Work".

Unlike humans, fires usually travel uphill much faster than downhill. The steeper the slope, the faster the fire travels. Fires travel in the direction of the ambient wind, which usually flows uphill. Additionally, the fire is able to preheat the fuel further up the hill because the smoke and heat are rising in that direction. Conversely, once the fire has reached the top of a hill, it must struggle to come back down because it is not able to preheat the downhill fuel as well as the uphill.

Dr. Clark says that fires travelling slower uphill are an exception to the rule, but it does happen. Winds can work against a fire that is trying to move up a slope.

"It depends on which way the wind's blowing," he said. "For example, I have a case study in Australia where the wind was blowing down the mountain side, blowing the fire away from the hill until a front came through. Then it went uphill."

Man, these anti-semites are stupid and delusional.

BoneCrusher said...


Why dont you come out to the Muqata and let me show you the sights?




After I exposed "JAMES" for what he was he disabled his "OTHER" blog that he had just started. LOL....

But he does participate in this one. Probably under all the names that you cannot access.posted by qrswave IS ONE. LOL


Busted James...sorry. lol
God bless Israel !!

Rafi G. said...

Jameel - thank you for the post and thank you for the volunteering.
I now tell my mother when I grow up I want to be like Jameel...


James, you should not lie. You are a coward, just like the Hezlobhoh and Hamas & Al quieda ! You know what you do.

Shame to you !

The back of the hill said...

James, no offense, but your god does not exist.

And Hashem is a jealous deity, who doesn't like idolatry and superstition.


These trolls never cease to amaze me !

Scottage said...

Jameel, you are an inspiration to us all. A great post, and an amazing job of contributing with your time, your energy, and your courage. Thanks for it all!

Search the Muqata


Related Posts with Thumbnails