CONTACT: Clem Boyd
New York (April 3, 2023) — Israel became a nation 75 years ago this year and will be celebrated on April 25-26. Through all the successes and struggles, Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical services and Red Cross, has remained a strong and powerful unifying force.
Yasmeen Mazzawi, a 24-year-old Arab Christian from Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, is a testimony to this fact.
Paramedics and EMTs from every facet of Israeli society serve with MDA: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Bahai, religious and secular. They are committed to saving the lives of all in Israel. This commitment leads them into the heart of danger, treating every patient with dedication, dignity, and professionalism.
Mazzawi began volunteering with MDA when she was a high schooler at Nazareth Baptist School, which serves children ages 4 to 18.
And even though she has since completed a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Haifa University in Israel and is working toward an MBA in data analytics from Mannheim Business School in Germany, she still serves with MDA any time she is back home.
“I grew up in a loving home on values of accepting the other and loving the other,” Mazzawi said during a recent break from grad school. “We do not judge anyone for their religion, race, color, or language. We have only one goal: saving lives. That means accepting people no matter who they are.”
Mazzawi was encouraged to volunteer with MDA by her parents, Fadoul and Suzanne Mazzawi.
“I was 15 years old when they asked me if I would like to go to MDA and volunteer,” she recalled. “Our family always talks about volunteering, giving to the other and helping. And they said, ‘You’ll see these values at MDA.’ To be honest, I had no clue what they were talking about because we had no awareness of MDA in my school. I knew nothing about it. But without thinking twice, I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”
Mazzawi signed up for a course to become an emergency medical technician.
“It was very challenging in the beginning because my mother tongue is Arabic, and it was all in Hebrew,” she explained. “But I felt that there was something different. I was all the time looking at my instructors and thinking, ‘Wow, they are all very connected; they all look like family. What they are doing is just great. I want to be like them sometime in the future.’”
After high school, she went back for more MDA training to become a paramedic, then served with MDA for two years as part of her service to Israel. To this date, she remains a volunteer. She has never received payment for her lifesaving role. In fact, of the 33,000 who serve with MDA, 30,000 are volunteers. She is part of MDA’s strong committed core of highly trained volunteer emergency healthcare professionals.
While still in high school, Yasmeen made another remarkable decision that reflected her faith values and the values of MDA: she visited Auschwitz.
“I worked with Jewish people, and they were talking during Holocaust Memorial Day about things I did not understand. How could I work with people, and I do not know their history? This history is important to spread to my community, and do not really know about it. To bridge the gap between us, and help people talk together, what better way than to start with myself and this journey.”
Mazzawi took a week off school to travel with the MDA youth delegation to the infamous German concentration camp and extermination center in Poland, where more than 1.1 million men, women, and children, almost exclusively Jewish, lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
“It was a very hard experience,” Mazzawi shared. “We felt what people went through with our five senses. I learned a lot from this experience — the stories we heard, and the things we saw.”
On her return, Mazzawi was not greeted with eager questions or listening ears, but with derision and isolation. “Childhood friends left me, and I found myself alone in school, no one talking with me, spending lunchtime by myself. Imagine how hard this would be for a teenage girl.”
In characteristic fashion, drawing on her own beliefs based in her faith and confirmed by her experience in MDA, she turned loss into opportunity. She began by talking with fellow students at her school and encouraging them to volunteer at MDA. She visited Arab and Jewish schools around the country, sharing her story, and spreading a message of love, respect, and mutual acceptance.
As a result of her courageous communication effort, two of her friends who had stepped back from her in high school decided to volunteer with MDA for their two years of national service. They apologized, agreed that MDA was amazing, and praised her for sharing the story behind Israel.
In addition to her friends volunteering with MDA, hundreds of Arab youth responded to her social media campaign and decided to volunteer as well.
“I knew there would be a price I would pay,” Mazzawi said. “For me, the barrier between Jews and Arabs felt like a glass window. Maybe they see each other and even know each other. They’ve heard things and have these stereotypes about each other. But the way to talk to one another is to break the window. Only as you understand the other can you learn their history, so history won’t repeat itself.
“Someone had to break this window, and get injured, but it will open the door for others. But I also believe, if you treat the wound properly, it will heal.”
“Yasmeen Mazzawi truly reflects the highest values of Magen David Adom,” said Catherine Reed, AFMDA chief executive officer. “This courageous and caring young woman is saving lives in Israel and creating bridges of understanding and mutual concern. Yasmeen and others like her are stamping their unique imprint on the world, and we are so proud that she is a member of the MDA family.”
To learn more about Magen David Adom, visit savinglivesinIsrael.org.
About Magen David Adom
Magen David Adom is Israel’s national paramedic and Red Cross service. A leader in mass-casualty response and EMS technology, MDA treats and transports nearly 1 million people to hospitals every year; collects, safety tests, and distributes nearly all the blood to Israel’s hospitals; and, through its affiliation with the Red Cross movement, responds to disasters around the world. www.savinglivesinIsrael.org
For more information and to interview Yasmeen Mazzawi or Catherine Reed, contact Clem Boyd, director of public relations, at email@example.com or 724.930.4003.