Dr Judith Guedalia

Eretz Ochelet/Dorechet Yoshve'ha

Ochelet Yoshve'ha (consumes its inhabitants) is what the meraglim (Biblical spies sent out by Moses to check out the Israel of old) reported when they returned. For deriding G-d's munificence, they and Am Yisrael were punished and forced to wander in the desert sands for 40 years.


On May 2, 2004 - three years ago - following the point-blank murder of Tali Hatuel, the eight-months pregnant mother and her four daughters aged 2 to 11, halftrack after halftrack (a truck and a tank hybrid) rumbled into Gaza. First to do tihur, literally to "purify" but colloquially to "clean-up" after terrorists who from behind "safe houses," shot men, women and children who had come to mourn the Hatuels. The soldiers' mission was first to raze the houses that provided the terrorists with cover, and then to "clean-up" bomb factories and hidden tunnels used to smuggle guns and ammunition to and from Gaza.

What followed was the even more wrenching "clean-up." This time thetihur was on hands and knees on the hot sand. These soldiers' mission was to find the shards and remnants of other soldiers, their chavrutot in the hesder yeshivot and their chiloni comrades-in-arms that, in two separate halftracks (not 24 hours apart), were blown to bits by explosives.

Again there were pictures and sounds of grandparents and parents burying their children and husbands, for the oldest of these soldiers was only 23. And yet again, we saw young widows and children sitting shiva, whole families being destroyed.

"War is Hell" to quote General William Tecumseh Sherman who, in September 1864, evacuated and burned Atlanta. Horrible things happen in war but, at the very least, we hope that there is some meaning to life and death.

But what would Calev ben Yefune and Joshua, who spoke positively about Eretz Yisrael, say if they saw the statistics of the road carnage here? We have become Eretz Dorechet Yoshve'ha - the country that tramples/runs over its inhabitants. Would they, or the 10 meraglim, have ever in their worst nightmares imagined that their descendents would be killing and maiming each other on the roads day after day?

That is what is happening on the roads. A heartbreaking, small advertisement requests nursing mothers to volunteer by donating milk for a three-month-old baby who is allergic to formula. Anyone who had read the paper or heard the news, or spoke to another person at the corner store knew that, less than a week before, a beloved rav and his wife were killed in a crash on the snow-covered road in the Judean Desert. Their eldest (14-year-old) daughter was critically injured, their infant was three months old and their other seven children were mercifully at home. The milk was obviously required for the three-month-old orphan.

On another day, we are shown a picture of a young man kibitzing in front of the camera. We all knew by then that this kibitzer was both drunk and under the influence of drugs when he lost control of the truck he was driving and killed his twin brother, who was in the seat next to him. The car he hit had five men - heads of families - returning from a night shift at their jobs. He is now in jail awaiting trial on six counts of murder.

Then there are "just" accidents: seat belts off; seat-belts on; driving too tired; passing on the wrong side; not stopping at a light or stop sign; going too fast, etc. The final result is the same: more maimed and dead; more families mourning for the "healthy person" that "just left home," never again to return whole, healthy or maybe even alive.

Chaim K., who often writes with me for TheJew ish Press, was crossing the street when a car hit him. He is spending the rest of his life as a CSI (Cervical Spine Injured) person - quadriplegic on a respirator.

Hatzalah Yehuda and Shomron (acronym in Hebrew Y"oSh) is a voluntary humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical services and support for security activities in conflict areas and the more prevalent "just plain" emergencies - road accidents. They are on call every day, 365 days a year.

The organization is run by volunteers who see Hatzalah Y"oSh as the immediate answer to the well-being and security of residents in less-than-urban areas. The volunteers, who include doctors, nurses and paramedics, are the heart of the organization. Saving time is key. The volunteers, almost all of whom live in various parts of the countryside, are equipped with the latest in communication devices and emergency equipment, so as to reach victims within the most crucial moments after injury. Beyond the financial investment, much thought has been given as to what constitutes these life-saving portable "kits" used in these crucial "moments" that are often the difference between life and death.

At work, saddened by the diagnosis I give, I sit opposite a 23-year-old single mother of twin "veryinvolved" autistic children, who has tears in her eyes when she discusses the three-month-old orphan in need of milk. I wonder at her compassion for the baby as she tells me that atleast her children have a mother!

The "counting" of the Omer is in full swing, with Lag B'Omer (33rd day) as a break in the sadness and mourning for the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, who were killed (132-135 C.E.) hundreds of years ago (Gemara, Tractate Yevamos, 62b). They were killed by our enemies, as it is written in the Gemara, because they didn't respect each other. Have we not learned anything from that terrible tragedy which we remember every year by observing mourning customs as we "count?" We must join together and start respecting each other's lives. We must stop the killing by and of friends, neighbors and ourselves - on the roads, in the here and now. How much mourning, how many "Omer's," should we be accountable for in this − G-d's Promised Land?

Originally published in the Jewish Press on May 9, 2007.

Tags: Accidents | Death | Injuries | Jewish Press