Israel’s emergency medical service hires its 1st female Muslim ambulance driver
I loved seeing this story because it goes to show what I already know on the ground. The media wants to show how Arabs and Jews are fighting, but the reality on the ground is different. There is much cooperation, although there needs to be more, between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.
This woman, Sherian Kihia, is an outstanding example of someone taking a step in the right direction in trying to resolve this issue.
Hopefully, I’ll see more of these stories to come.
Israel’s MDA hires its 1st woman Muslim ambulance driver
Kihia. Overcoming criticism (Photo: Shlomi Cohen)
Thanks to family’s support, Israeli-Arab Sherian Kihia overcomes internal criticism and puzzled looks by Arab and Jewish patients on the way to fulfill her dream. ‘I engage in saving lives, not in questions of religion,’ she says
For years, 24-year-old Sherian Kihia of east Jerusalem dreamed of volunteering with the Magen David Adom emergency organization. In order to realize her ambition she had to overcome internal and external criticism about working alongside men and until the small hours of the night.
Now, after being admitted by MDA and making history as the organization’s first female Arab ambulance driver, she says with complete confidence: “I engage in saving lives and don’t get into questions of religion or nationality. I’m actually receiving a lot of support from other Arabs.”
There were quite a few difficulties on the way. “Friends and family asked me why would I want to volunteer with Magen David Adom (the Israeli medical volunteer service) and not with the Red Cross, for example. But my parents helped me move on and make progress in the professional courses offered by the organization.”
If you ask Kihia, this isn’t her last stop in the rescue organization – one day she would like to become a paramedic. In the meantime, she receives all the possible support from her family members, and particularly from her new husband whom she married several months ago. “One of the problems was the fact that I get home late, which is unacceptable in my sector,” she shares, “but my family supported me and so did my husband. He said, ‘Do what you want. You have my support.’
The other MDA volunteers, she says, appeared unmoved by the fact that she’s a Muslim. “They treat me well and like me here, despite the language difficulties,” she says. In the meantime, she is getting puzzled looks on the street when people recognize her as part of the emergency crew.
“The Arabs are very surprised to see me driving an ambulance. They can’t believe that I have a driver’s license and that I’m a medical assistant,” she says. “After they understand, they actually compliment me.”
Kihia receives a lot of encouragement from the other side as well. “On Yom Kippur I was stationed outside a very big synagogue in Jerusalem, with thousands of worshippers. All the women there were very excited to see me, especially in light of the fact that I’m Arab,” she recalls. “They treated me well and showed me a lot of respect.”
Murad Salman, director of the east Jerusalem team, concludes: “We hope that Kihia’s decision to join us will raise awareness for volunteer work among other young people from the Arab sector.”
To see the rest of the story, click here.