‘Rescuers Without Borders’
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‘Rescuers Without Borders’

Survivor of West Bank attack tells her story in Englewood

Rescuers Without Borders volunteers in Har Bracha get an advanced lifesaving pack. (Photos Courtesy Rescuers Without Borders)
Rescuers Without Borders volunteers in Har Bracha get an advanced lifesaving pack. (Photos Courtesy Rescuers Without Borders)

Michal Salomon put her year-old twins to bed upstairs at her in-laws’ home and came down to the living room to play with her three older children before the guests were due to arrive.

On that Friday night in July 2017, she and her husband, Elad, Elad’s sister, and their parents had prepared refreshments for neighbors in Neve Tzuf-Halamish, a Jewish village in the Samarian hills north of Ramallah. The guests were invited to come after Shabbat dinner to celebrate the birth of a baby boy to the elder Salomons’ younger son and his wife the previous day.

Before long they heard the first knock on the door. But the visitor was not one of their friends. He was a young man demanding, in Arabic, to tell him their names.

Ms. Salomon immediately realized the danger and rushed her children upstairs into the room where the twins were asleep. She pressed herself against the door because it wouldn’t lock.

From there she heard the screams as her husband, Elad; her father-in-law, Yosef; and her sister-in-law, Chaya, were stabbed to death and her mother-in-law, Tova, was severely wounded by the intruder.

Later she would learn that her dying husband fought with his attacker, preventing him from coming after her and the children, fighting him off just long enough for an off-duty soldier living in the village to run over and shoot the terrorist through the Salomons’ kitchen window.

“I heard horrible screams and gunshots, and after what felt like an eternity, I realized it was over. I went downstairs, saw Elad and realized that my husband was not among the living,” she told reporters later.

The new parents and infant were still in the hospital. The following Thursday the eight-day-old baby was circumcised and given the name Ari Yosef — his middle name was in memory of his grandfather.

You might think that Ms. Salomon would not want to keep retelling the shocking events of the night that turned her into a widow with five young children.

She has been willing to do so, however, in support of causes she sees as serving the greater good. Last November she and her children traveled to Washington to advocate for the passage of the Taylor Force Act, slowing the transfer of U.S. financial aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ends its policy of paying stipends to convicted terrorists and terrorists’ families. The bill passed in March.

Michal Salomon

On Monday, Nov. 12, Ms. Salomon will tell her story at a private home in Englewood to raise awareness and funds for Rescuers Without Borders, an Israeli civilian emergency-response volunteer network in the West Bank. (See box.) Local squad members were first on the scene to tend the dead and wounded and help Ms. Salomon begin to process what had happened.

Along with Rescuers Without Borders’s development director, Natalie Levy Sopinsky, Ms. Salomon also is scheduled to speak to Jewish groups in Miami and Orlando before returning home to Rehovot, where she and her children have been living with her father.

Ms. Sopinsky said that Ms. Salomon is “strong, down to earth, and normal” and has worked hard to move forward with her life while the teenager who murdered her husband sits in jail, serving four life sentences.

Even though she does it, reliving the events of that tragic night is not easy for Ms. Salomon. When the Jewish Standard sought to speak to her before her trip to New Jersey, she had just wrapped up a video interview with Israel National News. Ms. Sopinsky felt it would be too emotionally draining for Ms. Salomon to talk to the press again that same evening. We spoke instead with Ms. Sopinsky, who was by Ms. Salomon’s side for the earlier interview and has come to know and admire this tenacious survivor of terror.

“Why is she willing to travel to America and tell her story again and again?” Ms. Sopinsky said. “She has said that it’s because she knows how important it is. We need to be safe and we need people to save lives.”

Ms. Sopinsky grew up in Delaware; now she lives with her family in the town of Sussya in the Hebron Hills, one of more than 120 West Bank communities served by some 800 volunteer first-responders in Rescuers Without Borders. These communities aren’t large enough to have permanent stations of Israel’s national emergency medical service, Magen David Adom (the Israeli Red Cross).

Rescuers Without Borders — which used to be called Hatzalah Yehuda and Shomron — has been operating in these territories since 2001, in full cooperation with MDA. The MDA trains its volunteer medics and paramedics; the goal is to get local first responders on the scene during the critical minutes it takes for MDA staff to mobilize and reach these often remote areas. The group responds to anyone who needs emergency medical assistance, including civilians, soldiers, and Arab residents of surrounding villages.

RWB volunteers have both their own logo and the MDA logo on their uniforms. Some have gone with MDA to help victims of disasters in other countries — that is what prompted the change of name.

RWB receives no government funding.

“The purpose of our tour in New Jersey and Florida is to spread awareness of the first-response medical teams throughout Judea and Samaria and explain how they are important and necessary because they are here, living in our towns,” Ms. Sopinsky said. “You don’t realize how important they are until you need them for anything from broken arms to childbirth to terror attacks. When all these things happen, we are very much on our own. Our organization helps the volunteers get training and their own equipment so they don’t have to wait until MDA arrives with medical supplies.”

Equipment bought with donor contributions includes individual trauma aid kits, basic lifesaving kits, defibrillators, hemostatic bandages, burn kits, and armored medic vests.

Last year, a Rescuers Without Borders volunteer saved the life of a stabbed police officer with a hemostatic bandage. Another used his burn kit to give immediate treatment to a one-year-old girl suffering second-degree burns.

Rescuers Without Borders only recently began publicizing its work in the United States, Ms. Sopinsksy said. She and Ms. Salomon hope to meet with Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. On her visit to Washington last November, Ms. Salomon had met with White House Middle East adviser Jason Greenblatt, who lives in Teaneck, and National Security Council staffer Victoria Coates.


What: Awareness- and fund-raiser for Rescuers Without Borders www.hatzalah.org.il/en/home

When: 8 p.m. November 12

Where: The Harary home, 232 S. Dwight Place, Englewood

RSVP and more information: Natalie Sopinsky,
Natalie@hatzalah.org.il; 215-570-8552 (U.S. cell);
215-667-8704 (U.S. line in Israel through Sunday, Nov. 11)

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