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|Tying the Knot While Saving Lives|
Rivka Goodman, an instructor at the Jewish Agency’s Yochai Porat Magen David Adom (MDA) Overseas Volunteer Program, deftly demonstrated CPR and first aid, as participants intently followed. After the completion of the course, Rivka was formally introduced to participant Dov Shore by another instructor. Their consequent courtship spanned 13 months, two continents, and a couple of homicide bombings in Jerusalem. Together with their infant daughter, Nechama, the Shores recently made aliyah and live in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. “The Jewish Agency was instrumental in our marriage,” smiles Rivka, 22.
Rivka is from a staunchly Zionist family in California, involved in many causes and projects. She came to Israel on the Jewish Agency Kefiada program, volunteering with Ethiopian children in Kiryat Malachi. Graduating from the Jewish Agency MDA program and a subsequent MDA upgrade course, she started volunteering regularly at Jerusalem MDA stations. In addition, she worked for the Jewish Agency’s Tnuat Aliyah which runs programs to promote aliyah. Her work involved speaking to groups about the Jewish Agency’s programs. After her engagement to Dov, she returned to the States for their wedding and worked at the Jewish Agency’s office.
Dov, 22, originally from Syracuse, NY, came to Israel on a post-high school yeshiva program in Mevasseret Zion. He participated in the Jewish Agency MDA program in 2003, and volunteered at Mevasseret’s MDA station as well as at his yeshiva. “I feel that volunteering in MDA is the closest way to help people and on their lives make an impact. After all – ‘one who saves a life, saves a world’,” he says. He is learning in Ulpan and has started to work for IDT Global Israel, a large telecom provider, which employs many English-speaking olim during their initial years of absorption.
Although Dov and Rivka have experience in treating a range of injuries, administering CPR, and delivering babies on occasion, the homicide bombings left a lasting impression. They were both at Jerusalem MDA headquarters in June 2003 when the call came in about an explosion on a crowded bus in the center of the city. Their ambulance, the first to arrive at the scene, was the focus of the press who preceded them. The clip of Rivka running toward the wounded was wired around the world and replayed dozens of times, as was another clip of Dov. “My father in the States actually saw his future daughter-in-law for the first time on the TV news,” recalls Dov.
At another incident, they were eating pizza with friends when a terrorist exploded himself across the street at Café Hillel (September 2003). Luckily, the 10 young people were all uniformed EMTs or skilled instructors at the Jewish Agency’s MDA Overseas Program. Equipped with lifesaving apparatus, they were the first on the scene to start triage before ambulances arrived.
When large groups of overseas MDA volunteers are involved in homicide bombings, the Jewish Agency holds debriefings with a psychologist after the event. Counselors discuss events on an individual basis to help people work out their feelings.
The Jewish Agency’s MDA Program attracts young adults from around the world. The program, which certifies participants as First Responders, begins with a 60-hour first-aid training course in English that covers material ranging from bandaging a simple wound through mass casualty incidents. Following the week-long course, participants start duty at MDA stations for five weeks, meeting the Israeli population with its wide diversity of people, religions and beliefs. They work with Israelis in an Israeli environment, perfecting their Hebrew and making new friends - all while saving lives.
Shortly before Rivka started the MDA Program in 2002, Yochai Porat, the coordinator of the overseas volunteer program, was killed by a Palestinian sniper while on reserve duty, trying to give medical care to a fellow soldier. The program was then named after him, and each graduating group visits Yochai’s parents and his grave.
Course participants live in absorption centers. “The course provides an easy landing for life in Israel. It is a safe way to experience life in Israel,” notes Rivka. Most graduates of the course that Rivka took have since made aliyah, while others are planning aliyah as soon as they finish their studies.
Comparing marriage to aliyah, both milestone events, Rivka reflects: “Both are a completion and a beginning of a process. We’re here in Israel, starting our lives together, in the place where we’re supposed to be!”