By Chanita Teitz
As I mentioned last week, five members of Queens Hatzalah went on a mission to Israel to help during Operation Amud Anan. After hearing that they returned to New York, I decided to interview them about what they did in Israel. I had no idea of the magnitude of their mission.
I spoke to Eli Rowe, who led the group. He told me that Queens Hatzalah joined with other groups from the U.S. and Europe through an organization called HEART, which was founded about 20 years ago by Shlomo Zakheim in cooperation with Hatzalah and Magen David Adom.
“The HEART team has been training alongside MDA in Israel for the last decade to assist MDA, the army, and the citizens of Israel in the time of war.” This is the first time they were called to actually take an active part in treating emergencies in Israel.
According to Eli, when recruiting the volunteers he emphasized that the situation in Israel was potentially serious and that anyone volunteering to be part of a HEART team would have to make a commitment for the “real deal,” a dangerous mission, high stress, with associated risks. They were going to the front lines to serve alongside Magen David Adom to treat wounded soldiers and civilians in the areas hardest hit by the missiles launched from Gaza.
From the time of the initial deployment request, the first group, Team Alpha, was in the air in less than eight hours. Upon arriving in Israel, they were met at the airport by MDA and were taken to the regional MDA center in the south. They were briefed and fitted with bulletproof vests and helmets. Their team consisted of ten members from the U.S. and four from Europe and were divided into three groups and sent to stations in S’derot, Netivot and Ofakim.
With 60,000 soldiers waiting at the border for their orders to go into Gaza in a ground war and with shorter-range Kassam missiles flying constantly, there were casualties, both civilian and military. I asked Eli what they did if the siren went off while they were treating somebody, and he told me that they hit the ground, covering the wounded with bulletproof vests.
Eli sent me his daily updates that he sent back here for Hatzalah and HEART team members to read. Day after day he describes how hard they were working, sometimes for 36+ hours straight, catching whatever sleep they could. On some days, multiple missiles got past the Iron Dome, sometimes exploding simultaneously, and they had to respond to the many injured civilians and soldiers, while at other times, baruch Hashem, 100% of the missiles fired were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
The possibility of a ground invasion with the potential for increased injuries was always of concern, and member safety was a top priority.
One thing Eli kept emphasizing, and I heard the emotion in his voice, was the enormous kiddush Hashem that was made there. The HEART team, with MDA, the army, soldiers, civilians, and the hospital personnel, all worked together. Eli wrote in one of his updates, “The situation in the South has been trying, tense, and at many times uncertain. We greatly appreciate the incredible response of our members willing to abruptly leave their families and work at a moment’s notice to participate in this momentous kiddush Hashem.”
Although talks of a cease-fire continued, the rockets increased and the HEART teams treated many civilians and soldiers. “Bomb blasts from Gaza can be heard constantly and Tzeva Adom sirens continue to cause our teams to dash to bomb shelters.”
On Wednesday, the day of the bus bombing in Tel Aviv, there were direct hits on Israeli buildings and army bases. Also, in the fragile hours after a cease-fire “flare-ups and reactivation can occur without a moment’s notice.” The teams were put on “highest alert necessitating the need to remain indoors while not on call, suit up in helmets and bulletproof vests, and stay in shelters as a barrage of rockets unseen in numbers since Day 1 rained down relentlessly.”
“MDA publicly recognized HEART for the level of care provided by its team members and has told HEART’s management that the value of our team far exceeded their wildest expectations. HEART continues to receive incredibly positive feedback for its professionalism during some of Israel’s most tense moments and the kiddush Hashem made has been legendary. HEART, MDA, and the citizens of Israel give all the HEART teams, and especially their families back home who supported their going selflessly on this mission, yasher koach for your amazing work.”
Mi k’amcha Yisrael!
Of Queens News
They came, they saw, and BYQ conquered! On Wednesday, November 14, Bais Yaakov of Queens held its annual Open House. The administration, staff, and volunteers welcomed parents who came to observe this outstanding school. Prospective parents met the administration, took tours of the school, and sat in on classes. Visitors were enchanted by the enthusiasm of the students and their involvement in their learning.
When parents visited the preschool, which is renowned in the professional community and sought after by all for workshops, they were amazed at the creative ways young students were learning. The moros had the opportunity to share their research-based philosophy of best practices in education.
The tours throughout the building offered a glimpse of 21st-century learning with Smart Board technology in both Hebrew and English studies, which adds and deepen the students’ understanding and relate the subject matter to them more visually. Parents loved being a part of the hands-on learning that takes place at Bais Yaakov as they stayed to partake in the sessions. They also visited the magnificent library, science lab, multiple computer and Gruss labs, gym, junior-high student activity room, resource centers, and so much more. To their delight they were invited to participate in the 7th-grade science lesson, which had students actively engaged using microscopes to examine plant cell slides. As they passed the library they were awed by the giggles of the students who were listening to a story being read by the school librarian. The banter, following the reading, was filled with excited little voices expressing big ideas.
Kids-to-kids heartfelt connection. Bais Yaakov students continue to think of ways to connect to other children, especially those in need. Following overwhelming responses from parents and children of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway who received ‘sweet treats for Shabbos’ that Bais Yaakov students packed and decorated after Sandy, the students want to do more. Rabbi Gewirtz is ecstatic with the program as it takes a life of its own. “The students at Bais Yaakov have neshamos filled with Kol Yisroel areivim zeh lozeh; their love of others inspires us.”
This week, they worked on designing cards and sending heartfelt messages to children in Israel who are under attack. The cards were handmade and beautifully decorated by the girls. They included messages of chizuk and achdus which they hope will support the children who receive them. In turn, the students at BYQ were inspired with what they sent. Their words gave them a sense of achdus, too. “The girls’ words were their own, from their hearts,” said Mrs. Somerstein.
“Integrating learning with caring and incorporating ‘lilmod laasos’ are how our children make connections between what they learn and what they should aspire to do,” said Mrs. Bergman.
The cards were taken to Israel by the preschool director, Mrs. Kirschbaum. Once there, they will be delivered and distributed to different areas. In all, the students hope to connect with nearly 1,000 children.
Mrs. Reisbaum, coordinator of the project with the girls, reflected, “It is moving to hear the expressed caring for K’lal Yisrael. I look forward to working with them on their next idea.”
Chabad of Little Neck invites you to a fascinating lecture entitled “Confessions of a Jewish Cultbuster” featuring Rabbi Shea Hecht, on Thursday, November 29, at 7:30 p.m. Cost: $10 per person. Refreshments will be served. Chabad of Little Neck, 254-05 Cullman Ave., Little Neck, NY 11362. For more information call 718-221-6731, www.ChabadLittleNeck.com.
CHAZAQ presents an opportunity to daven for health, parnassa, shidduchim, and anything else! Visit kivrei tzadikim. A half day of inspiration in the local New York area. Join world-renowned lecturer and author R’ Paysach Krohn who will inspire us with biographical highlights, stories, and lessons of the gedolim we will be visiting. Sunday, December 2. Price: $50. Buses depart from the Beth Gavriel Center at 11:30 a.m. sharp. 66-35 108th St. Forest Hills, NY 11375. For more info and/or RSVP please call Simcha at 347-451-5591. By reservation only.
Affordable health insurance workshop. There are millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance. You don’t have to be one of them. There are many affordable health insurance plans available for all income brackets. This workshop presented by QJCC and the Samuel Field Y’s QueensNet program, will explain the different types of health insurance. Find out if you qualify and how to apply for these programs. Space is limited. Advance registration required. Wednesday, December 5, 7:30–8:30 p.m., Hillcrest Jewish Center, 183-02 Union Turnpike, Flushing NY 11366. RSVP to (718) 225-6750 ext. 212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young Adults Dept of Queens Jewish Center, Children’s Chanukah party on Saturday night, December 8 at 6:30 pm in the QJC auditorium, 66-05 108th Street, Forest Hills. Price is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Please RSVP by Monday, December 3. Call 718-459-8432 for more information. www.MyQJC.org. v
Chanita Teitz is a real-estate broker at Astor Brokerage, with offices in Kew Gardens Hills and Fresh Meadows. For all your real-estate needs in Queens, call her at 718-263-4500 or e-mail email@example.com.