Heart to Heart - Saving Lives in Israel
Chanukah is celebrated this year from December 16 to 24, commemorating the defeat of Greek occupiers of the Land of Israel through the heroism of the legendary family of Judah Maccabee. The Greeks defiled the Temple. Upon vanquishing the Greeks, the Israelites discovered almost all of the ritual olive oil in the Temple was gone. They found only a single container, which was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the Temple’s menorah lit for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days.
Among the most vivid traditions of Chanukah is the lighting of the menorah, or chanukiah, every night of the holiday, beginning with one candle on the first night and increasing to eight by the last night. In a family like mine — in which we each light our own chanukiah, eight people times eight candles, plus the lighting of the head candle, the shamash, which is used to kindle all the other candles — there’s a lot of fire.
It’s especially meritorious to highlight the miracles of Chanukah publically, most commonly by lighting candles outdoors. Thanks to those who have partnered with Heart to Heart’s mission of saving lives in Israel, I’m pleased to share stories of eight people whose lives have been saved thanks to the dedication of Israel’s national blood, ambulance, and EMS service, through Heart to Heart and the support of people like you.
Barbara has been suffering for years from cancer, which has slowly progressed to stage four. She knows that, short of a miracle from God, the cancer is likely to win. Her son, David, says his goal is to help keep her alive long enough so that the cancer isn’t the cause of her death. By receiving regular transfusions, while not literally saving her life, the blood that others donated is giving her a new lease on life, providing energy to keep living, and significantly maintaining the quality of her life.
Sadly, Israel has a relatively high rate of car accidents and, sadly, Chana knows this all too well. Crossing the street in Jerusalem one evening, she was run over by a car. The ambulance had to transfer her to the hospital with special care because of how many bones were broken. After multiple surgeries and three pints of blood later that kept her alive, Chana is improving daily, and is able to celebrate life’s festive milestones with her growing family — children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Kay is a licensed tour guide and took, Kristine, a Christian friend from the U.S., on a hike in the Jerusalem Forest, where they were confronted by Arab terrorists, who stabbed both women numerous times. As Kristine lay gravely wounded, Kay mustered the strength to seek help. By the time ambulances arrived, it was too late for Kristine, but Kay survived. Every day since is an affirmation of the life she was given while she mourns for the loss of her friend.
Immigrating to Israel has its challenges, even in the best cases. Neal never imagined he’d celebrate the first anniversary of his immigration recovering from what’s called a “widow maker” heart attack. Fortunately, in Neal’s case, while the heart attack was major, because of the fast response of multiple ambulances and EMS staff, he is alive, still happily married, and loving the celebration of life’s milestones with his family in the land of his forefathers.
A heroic helicopter pilot in one of Israel’s most elite military units at the prime of his life, Noam suffered a devastating near-death setback when his helicopter was shot down, killing his co-pilot and breaking almost every bone in his body. Rising from the challenges, he is now a Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair tennis. He’s grateful to be alive, for the blessings he has, and to the paramedics who saved him at the outset, enabling him to watch the Israeli flag raised as he received his gold medal.
Childbirth is one of the most wonderful and miraculous occurrences, especially in Israel, where everything revolves around children and the sanctity of life. After the healthy birth of her daughter, Shoshana suffered from uncontrollable bleeding, which, while not uncommon, is still very dangerous. Had it not been for the ambulance getting her to the hospital in time, and the blood she received, Shoshana might not be alive to see her baby daughter grow up.
Sometimes terrorism is random, and sometimes terrorists target their victims deliberately. Because he advocated for the rights of Jews and Christians to pray on the Temple Mount, Rabbi Yehuda was shot four times at point-blank range by a terrorist. Thanks to the speedy response of Israel’s national ambulance service and a readily available blood supply, doctors were able to keep Rabbi Yehudah alive and treat his injuries. As a result, Rabbi Yehudah was released from the hospital after only a month, and is on the road to recovery.
Yarin, a 16-year-old, was walking home this summer when a Hamas rocket from Gaza landed a few feet from him. His body was thrown 60 to 75 feet. Paramedics from Israel’s national EMS service who were stationed nearby, heard the explosion, and, without waiting to be dispatched, rushed two ambulances to the scene. They arrived within 90 seconds to find Yarin unconscious and near death, his lungs filling with blood. The paramedics intubated him, stanched the bleeding, helped his plummeting blood pressure to rebound, and rushed him to the hospital. Without the immediate advanced life support and the blood he received, Yarin would have died on the spot.
Details about these and other lifesaving miracles are at www.savinglivesinisrael.org.
Candles do not light themselves, nor do miracles like these happen by themselves. On Chanukah, we use a shamash to light the candles that illuminate our celebration. By supporting Heart to Heart, you are the shamash, the catalyst, that makes these and many other miracles happen.
Blessings for a joyous Chanukah,
Director, Heart to Heart