Pashkvillim (posters) that went up in the majority-Haredi community of Ramat Beit Shemesh, in the town of Beit Shemesh, accused the emergency medical service United Hatzalah of transgressing the prohibition of yichud (seclusion in a closed, private area, by a man and a woman who are not permitted to be intimate together) by training female EMTs to respond to medical emergencies.
The pashkvillim declared that having women respond to emergencies—and act that even overrides Shabbat—violates the prohibition of issues of yichud.
The claim is bizarre in and of itself, stated Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, and President of the US-based organization Friends of United Hatzalah, since the same can be said for male EMTs responding to an emergency involving a woman, yet no claim has ever been made against such practice.
The pashkvillim went on to claim that female EMTs are committing a double sin, both by being involved in Sherut Leumi (national service) as well as by engaging in prohibited intimacy. These claims are also baseless and easily refutable since United Hatzalah employs volunteers over the age of 21 and does not have national service volunteers responding to emergencies as EMTs. Additionally, regarding the claim of prohibited intimacy, the same objections raised against females treating males could conceivably be raised regarding males treating females.
If the person requesting help is female, it would be more halachically correct that she be treated by another female than by a male, therefore the need for female EMTs is essential to the halachic aspect of emergency treatment, especially in cases of emergency childbirth or miscarriage.
The pashkvillim announced an upcoming campaign against United Hatzalah and against the “knitted kippa rabbis” who support them. But the United Hatzalah website introducing the official rabbinic board of the organization includes Rav Ezriel Auerbach, Rav Sariel Rosenberg, Rav Aryeh Dvir, and Rav Yehuda Silman, none of whom can be called “knitted-kippa rabbis,” as they are velvet-kippa donning leaders of the Haredi community in Israel.
Beer issued a statement saying: “I am proud that United Hatzalah has women volunteers. We are the first organization to unite Ultra-Orthodox, Modern-Orthodox, Secular, Jews, Non-Jews, men and women alike. United Hatzalah stands as a shining example to other Jewish rescue organizations demonstrating that no one should be excluded based on their religious beliefs or their gender.”
“We are going to continue to grow United Hatzalah and serve all communities,” Beer added. “We will continue to increase the number of all our volunteers, men and women alike, this is the best solution for all communities. It’s especially true for the Haredi community. Having women provide emergency medical care to other women who need help is not just an issue of modesty but is a source of human comfort, too.”
“You don’t have to be Haredi to feel more comfortable having someone of the same gender treat your injuries, especially if they are of an intimate nature,” Beer noted, concluding: “Everything we do complies with Halacha. We will not allow radical elements of any community to stop us from performing our duty and our mission which is to provide medical care and assistance and save lives, regardless of gender, religion, or nationality. We are all human beings and we will work together to help everyone in need.”