Last December, Dimona resident Yoel Souisa of blessed memory, who was a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT, was riding his emergency motorcycle on Highway 25 in the desert when he was struck by a car that carelessly swung into the highway from a side road. Yoel was transported to the hospital in critical condition and later succumbed to his injuries, sending shockwaves throughout the EMS organization and the Dimona community.
Yoel was buried the next morning with hundreds attending the funeral including United Hatzalah President and Founder Eli Beer. Scores of United Hatzalah volunteers and ambucycle drivers from across the entire country, in addition to Dimona public figures and rabbis, joined together to say farewell to the beloved EMT. During the funeral, Yoel’s widow, Efrat, broke down in tears and told Eli Beer how her husband’s volunteer work was “his entire world,” and vowed that she would become a volunteer in his place.
Last Wednesday, Efrat fulfilled her promise. At a graduation ceremony for the advanced Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit (PCRU) that took place at United Hatzalah’s Beer Sheva Volunteer House, Efrat took her place among 17 graduates who completed their training and will now provide psychological first aid to victims of emotional and psychological shock in the immediate aftermath of medical emergencies.
In attendance at the ceremony were Efrat and Yoel’s children and Yoel’s mother, as well as the Mayor of Be’er Sheva Rubik Danilovich. United Hatzalah decided that all the course graduates will be part of Team Yoel, including all the volunteers of the Dimona chapter.
During the graduation ceremony, Efrat told the gathered audience: “I want to begin by thanking Yoel for teaching us all the time what giving from the heart means. I want to thank Eli Beer. I have no words to describe the moment when you came to me during the funeral and I told you I would continue in Yoel’s path. I saw the sparks in your eyes and I think this is what gave me the power to do it so I want to say thank you.
“Thank you to the heads of the PCRU, Uriel Balams, Hadas Rucham, Einat Kauffman, and Avi Marcus, and to Yosef Assor, the head of the Dimona Branch, who gave me this opportunity. You believed in me and allowed me to join your amazing family, a family that I have known for years but didn’t know just how far they would go to make sure I was not alone in the hardest moments in my life.
“I want to say thank you to my brothers and sisters here in the course who have become my family. Thank you for the spark in your eyes every time we met, thank you for the nice words, the support, and the caring. You are the strength that allows me to continue, together with my amazing children and my dear mother-in-law who is with me every day. Thank you to everyone.”
Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich said: “United Hatzalah is love without conditions or borders,” and reminisced: “Once, United Hatzalah sent an ambulance to take my father to the old age home and I saw the commitment of the volunteers who came. Such patience, such love. I also owe you a personal thank you. You touch everyone. Look at the Israeli mosaic on display here. Olim, old-timer Israelis, women and men, center and periphery, Arabs and Jews, you are the beautiful Eretz Yisrael. I know how much it takes away from your personal and family time, because when the beeper goes off, there are no hours, there is no day or night, and whoever is the closest and can save a soul, immediately runs.
“By honoring and respecting people because they are people, created in God’s image, you sanctify God’s name. You open your heart and what you do enters deep into everyone’s hearts. I want to express appreciation, recognition, and thanks, from the bottom of my heart. Volunteers like you are the strength of our city and our country.”
Avi Marcus, Deputy Head of United Hatzalah’s Medical Division and Operations Manager of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, explained: “What you have learned throughout the course, beyond the ways to approach a person and calm them down, is the core of the values of United Hatzalah and in particular of the Unit. Everything has to do with compassion and empathy. That’s the power of what we do.”
Eli Beer expressed his pride in Efrat and his gratitude for her dedication to the organization’s mission, saying, “Yoel had a job and a family but every time someone needed help, he would stop everything and run to save other people to his last breath. Efrat, before the funeral, I had never met such strong a woman as you in my life. I want to thank you, Efrat, for joining us and becoming part of our family. I want to thank all the kids for allowing your mother to do this and to give her time. You should be very proud of your mother for what she has done, and what she will do.”