This is the inspiring story of a Muslim woman working to save lives in Israel through an emergency medical service organization.
Last Wednesday morning, one of the more active emergency medical service (EMS) volunteers in Umm al-Fahm, an Arab town located in Wadi Ara, responded to a car accident that saw two people lightly injured. The volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) treated both of the injured parties after they were evacuated from their vehicles by the Fire and Rescue Department.
What makes this story different from the myriad of motor vehicle accidents that occur daily in Israel is that the volunteer EMT in question is a religious Muslim woman.
Sanaa Mahameed is a lifesaving powerhouse. She has spent the better part of her adult life dedicating her time to responding to medical emergencies. She is trained to drive an ambulance and works with the local ambulance organization known as Kahol-Lavan (Blue and white). She works at the local health clinic in her town and volunteers as a first responder with United Hatzalah of Israel.
An Inspiring Tragedy
“I came into this field because I wanted to help people following a tragic story that has left me scarred until today,” Mahameed explains. “I was 16 when the story occurred. I was home alone one night when my aunt called me and asked if there was an adult at home. I told her I was alone. She had a sense of urgency in her voice and sounded frightened. I told her to tell me what was wrong. She said in a broken voice that her husband sat down on the sofa and was now unable to move. I threw down the phone and ran to their home as fast as I could.”
“I got to their home and I saw him sitting on the sofa, not moving. His daughter was standing over him, screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Please wake up.” I called for an ambulance and they came fairly quickly, but it was still too late,” Mahameed recounts.
“From that day onwards I knew that I would dedicate my life to saving other people by becoming an EMT so that I would know how to help people no matter what was occurring around me. That is precisely what I did,” she said.
“I began training to be an ambulance driver. I took courses on how to respond to large-scale disasters such as earthquakes. I worked as an EMT during college and high school sporting events and as an EMT guide with touring children. My dream is to complete paramedic training and to fly an emergency response helicopter.”
We Need You!
Mahameed has a message for other Muslim women, religious and non-religious alike.
“I want to send a message to all the Muslim women out there who have dreams similar to mine and wish to help others. Come join us here at United Hatzalah. We need more people like you. I can tell you from personal experience just how much saving a life enriches my own. There is no feeling like it, and I invite you all to join this wonderful organization that empowers me to do what I love so much.”
Sanaa is one of 300 Muslim volunteers for United Hatzalah and one of 320 women in the organization, but she is the only one who comes from both of these demographic groups. Her religious adherence has never proven to be an obstacle for her, and she is respected and loved by her fellow volunteers, especially those who work with her locally in the Umm-El Fahm and Shibli chapter – one of three all-Muslim groups in the organization to date. All the Muslim volunteers in the chapter and throughout the organization – just like their Jewish, Bedouin, Druze and Christian counterparts – provide emergency medical treatment to anyone who needs it in their vicinity regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion.