Snapshot of coexistence during corona crisis goes ‘viral’

Photo of Israeli ambulance crew fulfilling their prayer obligations during a break in a hectic shift gives moment of hope during coronavirus crisis.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) national ambulance service is a microcosm of the society, staffed by employees and volunteers who are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, paid employees and volunteers.

When an ambulance got a minute of quiet during a hectic shift earlier this week, two crew members, one Muslim one Jewish, took advantage to fulfill their daily prayer obligations and stepped outside the vehicle to pray.

A third crew member thought it made a nice picture and snapped a photo with his smartphone.

The snapshot of co-existence was put on MDA’s Facebook page and drew the attention of local media, eventually catching the eye of New York Times Jerusalem correspondent David Halbfinger.

“When an emergency medical team had a break, they stopped to pray, one member facing Mecca and the other Jerusalem. A photo of it struck a chord,” the Times wrote.

The ambulance crew members, Avraham Mintz, 43, from Beersheba and Zoher Abu Jama, 39, from nearby Rahat told Halbfinger that they worked together and lived together. Praying together was a normal thing for them.

The picture, taken by the third crew member Mohammed Alnabari, shows the two facing the geographic sources of their faith as proscribed by their religions. Mintz in his Jewish prayer shawl prayed facing the ancient Jewish Temple, while Abu Jama on his prayer rug was facing the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca.

Religious Jews are obligated to pray three times each day, while religious Muslims must pray five times daily.

The coronavirus outbreak in Israel has served up a crushing workload for the MDA, which in normal times handles a few thousand calls daily. Before the epidemic most MDA press reports were about car crash victims and workplace accidents.

As the infection rate spread exponentially MDA’s focus became the battle against the spread of the virus.

Ordered by the government to remain in their homes, fearful citizens have flooded MDA with so many calls they were forced to open additional call centers.

“MDA receives tens of thousands of calls a day, with the peak reaching more than 100,000 calls in one day,” MDA spokesman Zaki Heller said.

“The whole world is battling this,” Mr. Abu Jama told the Times. “This is a disease that doesn’t tell the difference between anybody, any religion, any gender. But you put that aside. We work together, we live together. This is our life.”