"An Arab and a haredi are riding a motorbike." No, this is not the beginning of a joke.
The story of Fadi Bahir and Hezy Roth can definitely be adapted into a feature film: Imagine an ultra-Orthodox man dressed in black, entering an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem in order to save someone's life. Hours later, an Arab man runs into the heart of the haredi neighborhood of Mea Shearim in order to provide medical care.
This is their story. Hezy and Fadi volunteer together at United Hatzalah, an emergency medical services organization similar to Magen David Adom. Hezy is a resident of Mea Shearim, while Fadi lives in the Arab neighborhood of At-Tur.
Arabs residents from east Jerusalem have recently began volunteering at United Hatzalah, joining the organization's 1,800 volunteers – most of them haredim. They help mostly in Arab neighborhoods, which the Jewish volunteers are often afraid to enter.
One of the new volunteers, Fadi Bahir, asked to work with a haredi volunteer. He teamed up with Hezy Roth, and together they tour Jerusalem's haredi neighborhoods and visit the nearby Mount of Olives, which At-Tur is built on.
'A person in danger doesn't care who saves him' (Photo: Atta Awisat)
Hezy comes from his fish shop, and Fadi from his work as a maintenance man at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
"This whole issue is really insane," Fadi says, smiling. "I'm approached by people in the middle of Mea Shearim, asking me for help. I have found myself more than once, with or without Hezy, in the middle of a yeshiva – performing resuscitation."
'We're considered weirdoes'
It turns out that the Arab and haredi streets have quite a lot in common. The massive Magen David Adom ambulances find it difficult to make their way between the allies and are not familiar with the location of houses, and paramedics are sometimes afraid of visiting hostile places.
This is where the interfaith team comes in: They don't any police escort, and can easily find their way on their motorbikes.
"It can sometimes take an ambulance 50 minutes to arrive," says Fadi. "The person can die 10 times on the way. Take (the east Jerusalem village of) Silwan, for example. There are no addresses or number there."
And Hezy adds, "When a person is in danger, he doesn't care who saves him. This connection seems completely natural to us, but we're each considered 'weirdoes' in each other's neighborhoods."
"Fadi and Hezy are proof that engaging in saving lives overcomes politics," says United Hatzalah President Eli Beer.
"Because we are an operational lifesaving organization, which is always prepared for emergencies, we know that a united front is required to serve the Israeli public in the best way possible."
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