From a young age, Yaara Zered knew she wanted to give more to the world. After volunteering at MDA - National EMS Organization, she kept looking for new ways to devote her time and skills to those who need it the most. Ever since then, Yaara has used her power as a journalist to give a voice to the voiceless. Read her exciting interview:
When did you start volunteering?
"I have been a volunteer since the age of 16. I joined the MDA organization and volunteered there for five years. At that age, I felt that, as a teenager, I have a lot to give, and I don't give enough. I was at school, I was working, but I knew I had something more than that to offer. So I did a first aid course and started volunteering.
MDA is the most refined formula for saving lives. And for those who want to contribute and can deal with the medical world - this is the place."
What do volunteers do in MDA?
"MDA has its regular ambulances, for non-life-saving events, some are, but mostly it's minor accidents. It's a lot of work with the elderly, who are usually terrified and need a person to be with them.
Many times in an ambulance, the most vital task is to be human. When a medical staff comes home, it is unpleasant. An ambulance is always stressful anyway, so the critical job is to be a person, be there for the patient, be sensitive to him, to hold his hand.
Intensive care ambulances are more stressful, and that's where you realize that human life is involved. The ambulance job includes everything - treatment of severely injured, traumatized, resuscitated patients receiving a cardiac or cerebral event."
Is it not too much for a teenager?
"As a youth volunteer, you have with you paramedics who run the team. You have to be very professional and attentive to the staff and very sensitive and understand the patient and the family's needs. It's a school for life.
It is challenging. Youth who volunteer at MDA face tough emotional challenges. After all, they are teenagers who suddenly begin to understand life. Coping is not easy. But when you volunteer where you need to be part of a system that needs to work efficiently and professionally in life and death situations, you learn what it's like to work collaboratively with the team and with people in distress.
Volunteering and being on an ambulance is not something everyone can do. But, volunteering is also looking across the street, seeing what is happening at our neighbors, and picking up the phone once a week for an older person who nobody came to visit for several months.
Volunteering comes in all sorts of forms, and one can be creative and find time for the little things that are very important to others."
Where else did you volunteer?
"I volunteered on many projects. After the army, I volunteered in youth projects in the community. We would sit with teens at night, talk, laugh with them, pass the time so they wouldn't be on the streets during the holidays.
I volunteered with seniors who need help with the most elementary actions - go to the supermarket, go to the ATM, talk to them, and listen to them. To light Hanukkah candles in their apartments. Such a simple operation - a young company for elders in sheltered housing, lighting candles. The energies and joy we put into this place did them a lot.
During the Corona shut down, I assisted farmers with harvesting their fields. It was an excellent opportunity, we were all in quarantine, and by definition, it was essential volunteering. We got the chance to be there for forgotten people - farmers, land-people, and the elderly. We helped them a lot.
And I'm working on my volunteer project of research on the Iraqi Jewry and riots. I started talking to the adults and perpetuating their memory, and shouting their cry. I worked with families to document them, be there for them, tell their story, pass it on to the media."
Can you tell us more about this project?
"In 1941, there were riots in Iraq inspired by the Nazis. I was exposed to this story through my family many years ago. I decided to document the people who were there. Then I realized that this issue was not investigated enough, and that's how I decided to dig into this issue and promote it in the Knesset and the media. To do justice to the families of the victims.
A young force that made a revolution is the Amram Association. They are the third generation from the Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan Children kidnapping affair. They turned to the state ministers and managed to bring things to consciousness. There were some moves in the Knesset and with the Prime Minister, today they have not yet reached their destination and are still working on it.
I felt that there were not enough things in the Israeli discourse. Ideologically and in general. There is a discourse that exists in Israel. Many times, things disappear from this discourse. One of the most important factors is the press, so once we deal with it in the press, it will bring awareness.
When I started, I didn't hear in the media about the Farhud. Today I succeed with other people working in the field to bring it to consciousness, especially around Shavout. We got it discussed in the Knesset. I can't believe that we've reached the day we talk about the Farhud in the Knesset.
Everything is connected to everything, the media, the public discourse, and politics."
That's why you became a journalist?
"I wanted to talk about what's being kept quiet. Also, politically, stories and events related to our history don't belong only to Iraqi Jewry. It's a story that's connected to all of us.
Has volunteering changed you?
"Yes, of course. Volunteering changed my mind. First of all, it blew up my bubble. It made me understand that we have a lot of work to do. And if everyone will say, "I'm not doing it," - then no one will.
It made me realize that sometimes the revolution only needs a phone call. If a case came to me today, and I can involve someone in it, I solved the story. Otherwise, this issue might never be resolved. Then we understand that we are very significant. Every person in every role in life is very significant."