Israel emergency workers visited Congregation Rodef Shalom in San Rafael this week to share harrowing stories of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
As first responders, Zvi Tibber and his colleague, Ronit Glaser, a Magen David Adom EMT and dispatch officer, were called into action amid the chaotic fury of gunfire and rocket attacks by Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Tibber said he awoke that morning in the town of Kefar Sava, north of Tel Aviv, to the sound of sirens. He soon heard the news of rocket attacks throughout the country, violence in the streets and massive casualties.
Tibber drove his ambulance south and encountered widespread violence on a scale he had not witnessed before, he said.
He said he tied a tourniquet on the leg of a woman with a gunshot wound suffered as she fled a burning shelter. He also drove a 5-year-old Bedouin boy with a gunshot wound for life-saving treatment at a hospital. The boy survived.
“We want to tell our story,” Tibber said. “It wasn’t easy deciding to come here, but others told us to go here and tell them our story. We want them to know what happened. That’s why we’re here.”
Rabbi Stacy Friedman said the San Rafael congregation had previously planned to gather as a community to speak about and learn more about what’s happening in Israel. She hosted a session titled “You Shall Not Remain Indifferent: How Do We Move Forward?” alongside the speaking event at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.
“When we heard about Magen David Adom, we jumped at the opportunity to invite them to join us,” Friedman said.
As the war between Israel and Hamas has raged on, Friedman said her congregants — like so many Jews nationwide — have sought a deeper understanding of what’s happening on the ground as well as its impact.
One month in, the death tolls throughout the region have been staggering: approximately 9,770 Palestinians killed in Gaza, and 1,400 people killed in Israel, according to the Associated Press. Tens of thousands of people have been injured and more than 1 million have been displaced.
“Right now the Jewish community in America feels so helpless and so far away from our beloved Israel,” Friedman said. “To be able to bear witness through first responders enables us to at least feel a little closer.”
Glaser said she works in a dispatch center in Jerusalem. Like Tibber, she was awoken that morning by blaring sirens sounding the alarm. She said she drove to the office with her two daughters in order to protect them.
From there, she began a 13-hour day hearing and transferring calls from a variety of critical situations: one person reported a husband’s shooting; another was seeking a missing person; another reported rocket attacks.
“This was the first time we had to deal with a situation where we would say we will get there as soon as we can, knowing sometimes we would not get there in time,” Glaser said.
In the weeks since the attacks, Glaser said she can “breathe a bit easier.” She said she hopes the talk would prompt a sense of community togetherness.
“Even just hearing what someone else went through, the strength we have of being all of us, a united nation of human beings, that’s what’s important for me,” she said. “I think it’s a strength that I hope the community will feel from us sharing our stories.”
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