When a cup of hot tea spilled on her infant son’s hand, new mother Yehut Amer, 22, panicked.
“I was very scared and didn’t know what to do. It took me some time to get my wits together and get to the clinic,” said Amer, who on Dec. 14 was among 45 Arab women from the Israeli Arab village of Kfar Qassem to take part in a home safety and accident prevention course offered for the first time by ZAKA, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish volunteer rescue and recovery organization.
Led by a ZAKA medical professional and an Arabic speaking paramedic, the course marked the first time ZAKA and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has taken an initiative specifically geared toward women in the Israeli Arab sector.
“From our experience there are a lot of accidents in the Arab sector involving children, including choking, gas stove burns, and drowning,” said Motti Bukchine, media relations director for ZAKA, who helped coordinate the course.
Because many of the women in the village like Amer are not knowledgeable in basic first aid techniques many home accidents can become life-threatening, he added. It is most important to specifically teach the women about home safety, he said, because in the Arab sector it is usually the mother who spends most of the time with the children.
Kfar Qassem family doctor Dr. Saleh Badir, who helped initiate the course, noted that the Arab sector leads Israeli society in the number of child injuries in home accidents, with the second highest number of injuries in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector.
“The women are already asking for a continuation of the course,” said Badir. “My aim was to give the women the tools to know what to do in case of an emergency during that critical period until the medical team arrives.”
In both the ultra-Orthodox and religious Muslim sectors, the separation of sexes is normally strictly observed, with different schools for boys and girls. Women never mingle with men in public events or family celebrations. But Bukchine and Badir say these social barriers are irrelevant when it comes to saving a life.
“The women in the course were all pious Muslim women, who dressed modestly, but it was not important who the instructor of the course was when we are talking about saving a life,” said Badir.
Bukchine noted that the Jewish Torah instructs on the importance of protecting the life of every human being.
“Our scriptures tell us that ‘Man was created in the image of God.’ ZAKA, as an organization, offers aid and assistance to all, regardless of religion, race or creed,” said ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav.
It yet remains to be seen whether the course ― which in addition to emergency first aid techniques also included home safety and accident prevention information ― will have an affect on the numbers of injuries and type of care mothers are able to administer in case of an emergency in the village, said Badir.
If the pilot course is a success, the program will be extended to 12 other Arab towns across Israel, said Bukchine.
The course is part of the Kulanana initiative, an initiative of about 20 Israeli NGOs of diverse backgrounds including ZAKA, which is dedicated to promoting diversity and fairness in Israeli society.