No one believed it could happen, but it has: An Israeli living in England has
made a politics-free film about cooperation between Jewish and Palestinian
volunteer paramedics for the Orthodox Jerusalem organization United Hatzalah,
who save lives together in the capital’s western and eastern
The 25-minute program, Jerusalem SOS, has been broadcast four times this
month by the global Arab TV network Al Jazeera in English, which has also put it
online for all to see.
It is an unusual sight: Arabs wearing orange vests
printed with the red Star of David team up with haredi (ultra- Orthodox) Jews
wearing black kippot, their sidecurls and tzitzit (ritual fringes) blowing in
the wind. And the partners have only praise for each other.
“I don’t care
which person I’m saving. I even go to [the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of] Mea
She’arim on Shabbat,” says Fadi, one of 100 Arabs currently volunteering for
“Saving lives is a religious act for me. Forget all the politics and
the mess. People need to live.”
“The Arabs are so devoted,” says a haredi
“Their chest compressions are incredible. They respect Jewish
sensitivities, especially on Shabbat.”
Eli Beer, the haredi founder and
head of the lifesaving rescue organization, commented Thursday, “It’s amazing to
see how well we all get along together, without conflict.
and respects each other.”
In a phone interview from London on Thursday,
the filmmaker, Keren Ghitis, told The Jerusalem Post how the piece came
“I started teaching people how to make videos in Latin America
and Africa so they could tell their own stories. I made this video as part of
the Ir Amim Initiative, which solicited ideas for films from Palestinian and
We were asked to tell things that usually do not get
attention,” she said.
She submitted it to Al Jazeera, which, she said,
was very interested in broadcasting it. Nothing was censored or dictated to toe
any line. The first showing was on January 16 at prime time.
comments from around the world, including the Arab world, have been very
positive. There has also been a lot of mention of it on Facebook. A Palestinian
community in the US even asked us for permission to use it for educational
purposes,” she said, adding, “It broke a lot of stereotypes.”
Jazeera Network has more than 65 bureaus around the world, with a staff of 3,000
– including more than 400 journalists from more than 60 countries. There is a
bureau that hires Israeli Jews and Arabs. The English station has more than
1,000 experienced staffers of more than 50 nationalities and broadcasts to some
220 million households in more than 100 countries.
“I wanted to reach
people and see more collaboration between Arabs and Jews,” Ghitis explained when
asked why she chose the subject. “More support is needed for medical services in
The UH-trained Palestinian paramedics note in the film
that there are often delays in Magen David Adom reaching the sick and wounded in
east Jerusalem because no ambulance can get there without being accompanied by a
police or military escort. UH Arabs and Jews often get there first on their
ambucycles. In addition, many streets are unnamed, and houses have no
Beer said Al Jazeera had set no conditions for the
Speaking to the Post from Davos, he said he had just met
Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, who received the Nobel Prize.
amazed,” he said.
“He and lots of people from all over the world tell me
that the fact that I am a proud Jew and Israeli makes Israel look very
Beer wants to have Arabs all over the country working hand-in-hand
with haredi, religious and secular Jews for his rescue organization. “I want
about 3,000 volunteers, about 15 percent of of them Christian and
Jews and Muslims do not oppose working together, he says,
despite the invisible boundaries and suspicions that separate their
“In the beginning, I met a few who were surprised about
working together, but after they saw that they are great people and really
professional, they all like it,” said Beer.
The Jews also work on Shabbat
and festivals in an emergency, and the Muslims on Fridays and
The film follows volunteers like Hezi – a former yeshiva student
who works in a fishmonger’s shop and has volunteered with UH for 15 years – and
Fadi, a security guard at Al-Aksa Mosque.
Fadi, presented as a loving
father hugging his young children at home, has been an assistant to the Jewish
owner of a Mea She’arim hardware store since the age of 14. His family
encourages him to go any time he gets an emergency call, as does Shlomo, the
shop owner. “He is like a son to me,” says the Mea Shearim retailer.
is not worried when dispatched to the Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem, and works
with Red Crescent medics.
“Since they started working together in 2010,
hundreds of lives have been saved,” Ghitis concluded.
The film, made by Keren Ghitis with English, Hebrew and Arabic spoken, can be viewed here.
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