Early Shabbat morning, four drunk Bedouin teenagers were speeding down the highway and quickly approaching a sobriety checkpoint near the Beit Dagan intersection. But instead of slowing down, they crashed straight through the blockade and continued speeding down the road. One volunteer policeman was thrown several feet into a ditch and died instantaneously, and two other policemen were injured.
Three other officers suffered an emotional stress reaction as a result of witnessing the accident. Emergency medical services were called for help.
United Hatzalah volunteer with the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Dr. Einat Kaufman was jolted awake from her deep sleep early Shabbat morning by the familiar sound of her emergency communication device, alerting her to the emergency at the checkpoint. She quickly grabbed a sweater and rushed to the scene. When she arrived, she did a quick triage of the situation and provided psychological and emotional stabilization to two female officers who witnessed the crash. A male officer who had also seen the ramming refused treatment.
Dr. Kaufman said, “It really was a traumatic experience, not only for them but for everyone at the scene, and I tried to explain this to them. I stressed that they were not alone in this situation and that we were all affected by the experience. We talked about how they were feeling and I worked with them to legitimize their emotions and ground them.”
One of the women officers told Dr. Kaufman that she had just had a conversation with the deceased officer a few minutes before the crash. She was deeply sad. “This incident was unexpected for both of them because usually people respect these blockades and act accordingly,” explained Dr. Kaufman. “The women were also still recovering from the mass-casualty incident in Meron around a year ago. This accident was like a switch that triggered a lot of emotions from that past incident as well.”
Despite her early morning fatigue, Dr. Kaufman was able to work with the witnesses and listen to them, allowing them to express their emotions and reassuring them that their reactions were normal. Dr. Kauffman noted that “every word is part of the therapy process, and everything I said to them was thought out and intended to help them in their emotional state.”
Dr. Kaufman explained why the Physocotrauma and Crisis Response Unit is crucial for incidents such as this one: “We arrive in the first few moments when everyone’s emotions are at an all-time high. We help them cope with what they’re feeling, allow them to organize their thoughts, and provide emotional support and stabilization. Our treatment, protocol, and support help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder for those who are exposed to a traumatic incident. I hope I succeeded in doing just that for the officers at the checkpoint.”
Later, Dr. Kaufman rushed home to get ready for the day. She arrived at her shul just in time for her new son-in-law’s getting called up to the Torah. “It was an interesting day because I was awash in a whirlwind of emotions, a mix of sadness and joy. On the one hand, I provided treatment to witnesses of a horrible incident where a man was killed. On the other hand, my daughter got married this past Thursday, and this Shabbat was her new husband’s Shabbat Hattan (the groom’s Shabbat), a celebratory event held after the wedding. The excitement of the Shabbat Hattan was overwhelming, yet a hint of the early morning incident stayed with me even throughout the excitement of the day, and I kept hoping that my support helped the officers to find some comfort…”