Ichud Hatzalah (United Hatzalah) officials explain that in response to an increase in the number of calls involving water rescue the organization sent its first group of EMS responders to be certified as divers. The group of chareidim was trained primarily to permit responding to calls in Lake Kinneret, where all too often they were summoned to assist in life saving efforts but lacked the ability to send responders into the water.
Realizing from painful experience that when it comes to Kinneret area emergency calls time is of the essence, and this led to the organization realizing it must have certified divers who can get into the water and begin searching for drowning victims and beginning rescue efforts in the water rather than having to wait for others to organize a response. As such, the first group of volunteers was certified in an Eilat diving school.
Simply stated, there are too many drowning calls in the Kinneret during the summer months and as a major component of the nation’s emergency medical service system, Ichud Hatzalah felt compelled to meet this demand as well and training divers was the logical response.
Ichud’s Northern District Commander Yossi Oknin explains that eight area chareidi volunteers stepped forward and committed to the training program, putting their lives on hold to travel to the southern port city for certification as a diver. These certified divers will now be part of the area’s growing rescue capabilities, including the ambucycles and in the case of the Kinneret, a boat suited for search and rescue.
Oknin explains what really prompted them to train the divers was a drowning case during the summer of 2010 when a young male died as a result of a drowning incident because no one could get into the water. He explains the responders arrived in a timely fashion, but they then stood around and waited, feeling helpless and the clock ticked, realizing there is more they can do and this led to the certification program.
Arranging the training program took a bit of logistical doing as they had to arrange for glatt kosher food, seforim to permit daily learning and more. The volunteers paid for the actual diving program from their own funds. They are certified to dive up to a depth of 30 meters as well as night diving.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)