I had the incredible opportunity to visit Israel December 4-8. Despite the ongoing challenges due to the conflict that started on October 7, this journey was a profound experience.
Infinity Concepts, the Pittsburgh-based brand-communications agency I work with as the Director of Public Relations, received an invitation from Cathy Reed, CEO of the American Friends of Magen David Adom, to participate in a Solidarity Mission with Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical system (savinglivesinIsrael.org).
I traveled with Cathy and other American supporters in Israel and met incredible Magen David Adom paramedics and EMTs who risked their lives to save others, displaying immense bravery as they rushed into the line of fire.
During this mission, I witnessed the resilience and courage of the people in Kibbutz Be’eri, a communal town in southern Israel located just a mile east of Gaza. Despite suffering the loss of 90 residents out of 1,200, the community shows unwavering determination.
When we reached Be’eri, the Israel Defense Forces had restored order, bringing security and stability back to the kibbutz. The residents look forward to rebuilding and reestablishing their lives in this graceful village, choosing to focus forward with fortitude and resolve.
“We used to joke,” said Lotan Pinyan, a resident of Be’eri who served as our guide, “that Be’eri had to be this close to Gaza because otherwise, it would be just too good.” Lotan, his wife, and children survived the October 7 onslaught. His in-laws, who also lived in the kibbutz, were found together—victims of the terrible attack.
We also paid our respects outside the dental clinic where MDA paramedic Amit Man had worked tirelessly to care for her fellow villagers. Even though she had been shot amid gunfire, Amit wrapped a tourniquet around her leg to stop the bleeding as she continued to work tirelessly to save others. Eventually, Hamas terrorists forced their way into the clinic, and she was killed at point-black range. Her heroic efforts, even in the face of grave danger, were a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Israeli people.
We also had the privilege of meeting Israel Defense Forces soldiers who are always ready to defend their homeland. One of them graciously offered us coffee, indicating the Israeli heart for hospitality, even amid the conflict. During our meeting with these remarkable young people, we were impressed at their commitment to guard and protect.
We traveled a few miles north to Sderot, where we had lunch with paramedics and EMTs who had served and survived the events of October 7. Their selflessness and dedication to helping others, even when advised to stay home for their own safety, left a lasting impression. They shared stories from October 7 while the sounds of warfare echoed in the background.
From documents retrieved from a Hamas terrorist’s body, it was learned that the Sderot MDA station was a top target. However, they were never able to take the building. Instead, this MDA base of operations became a haven where the injured came for treatment, and the dead were prepared for burial.
During our outdoor lunch at Magen David Adom’s station in Sderot, amid the sounds of artillery fire, we were reminded of the challenges Israel faces. But even in the face of adversity, the people of Israel remain resilient and united.
Throughout this journey, I personally grappled with doubts and fear. However, on the day we visited Be’eri and Sderot, the verse from Deuteronomy 31:6 came to me:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
It was a moment of divine reassurance, and I felt a profound sense of peace.
As the week unfolded, we learned about the challenges that Israel faces from various directions. We were charmed by the stunning port city of Haifa, but quickly learned this beautiful place is under threat of a potentially devastating missile bombardment from Hezbollah in the north, which has an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 rockets and missiles.
Erez Geller, director of MDA’s Carmel Region, which includes the Haifa station, noted that he and his team are preparing for the worst, knowing that a rain of rockets from the north will kill and wound thousands.
Despite these challenges, Israel remains prepared and resilient. Rambam Hospital, also in Haifa, was built with three stories underground in anticipation of such an apocalyptic scenario, ready to care for 2,200 patients in fully functional subterranean clinical facilities.
We also visited Magen David Adom’s amazing Marcus National Blood Services Center in Ramla, also with three floors underground, capable of processing, maintaining, and distributing nearly 100% of the nation’s blood supply during the worst of times. This facility was designed to operate even during missile strikes. This dedication to saving lives is truly remarkable.
At MDA’s National Dispatch Center in Kiryat Ono, just east of Tel Aviv, we heard from MDA’s director-general, Eli Bin, who shared stories of the bravery and sacrifice of MDA personnel who rushed into the line of fire to help those in need on October 7. They risked their lives on October 7, and some did not survive, including Aharon Haimov, Aviya Hezroni, and Amit Mann
Uri Shacham, MDA’s chief of staff, shared a heart-rending recording during our visit. It featured a son who had been wounded in the Nova Music Festival attack, reaching out to his father to convey his love for both his parents in his final moments. He had called MDA to facilitate this connection. Tragically, this young man lost his life to the hands of terrorists. As a father of two adult sons, this recording had a profound impact on me.
Additionally, there was a remarkable MDA dispatcher who provided guidance to a 9-year-old boy during a harrowing situation. The boy was instructed to remain silent and protect his younger sister while terrorists were invading Kfar Azar. These attackers had already taken the lives of the boy’s parents and an older sibling.
In some distressing calls, the dispatchers even had to listen as people were losing their lives. Uri explained that there is no training for such scenarios. Their courage and selflessness are a testament to their dedication to saving lives.
Amid the sadness and challenges, what stood out the most was the overwhelming sense of pride I felt. I was proud to be part of the Solidarity Mission alongside fellow Americans who support Magen David Adom. It was an honor to represent our agency, which works side by side with Magen David Adom. Serving an organization that is so committed to saving lives in Israel every day is truly an honor.
In closing, I reflect on Psalm 122:6-7:
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’”
To this, I trust you will respond with a resounding “Amen.”
To learn more and support Magen David Adom, visit savinglivesinIsrael.org.
Clem Boyd is Director of Public Relations for Infinity Concepts, a brand-communications agency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To schedule an interview, email him at email@example.com or text him at 724.930.4003.