The Arab terror wave that has been plaguing Israel since last September continues unabated, and in a sign of how haredi children are dealing with the tensions, many are dressing up as first-responder medics in honor of Purim.
It is traditional to dress up in costume for the holiday, in honor of how God's role is "hidden" and not explicitly stated in the Purim story of salvation from nearly 2,500 years ago.
This year many haredi children are dressing up as emergency paramedics from the United Hatzalah emergency medical service organization, playing the part of first responders who all too often must struggle to save the lives of terror victims. United Hatzalah medics responded to a total of over 260,000 calls last year, marking over 700 per day.
Gavy Friedson, Deputy Director of International Relations for United Hatzalah, spoke about the interest haredi children have for the medics.
"It happens all the time. Every time I walk out of the office I get asked for a sticker or to take a picture with haredi kids. These kids don’t have TV at home and they see their brother or father or uncle going out and working for United Hatzalah or ZAKA," said Friedson.
"They see their older family members zipping through traffic to go save someone’s life, so it is only natural that these people should become role models or ‘heroes’ in their eyes."
According to the distributor of the medic costumes, Yossi Amar, "we opened up sales in numerous locations around Israel and we couldn’t believe how many we would sell. We’ve sold over 1,500 costumes so far and that is still with a week and a half to go until Purim."
“Children are dreaming of becoming EMT’s,” he added. "Parents call me continuously and want to dress their kids up like this. People are even purchasing real first aid kits to go with the costume and to keep for the house after the holiday so that they have one."
Amar said the costumes are being bought by the general public, but the demand is highest in haredi areas.
“In areas where kids are not allowed to dress up like soldiers or police officers due to community concerns, one of the prevalent alternatives that they have for costumes of positive role models that give back to the community is a United Hatzalah medic,” Amar said. “Parents even dress up the bicycles of their children to make it look as if it is a United Hatzalah ambucycle. We supply stores with cardboard boxes that have sirens on them so that the kids can attach it to their bicycles, and they sell out.”
He added, "the kids look up at United Hatzalah medics as real life role models and superheroes. They are the real life Batman and Superman for these children, people who race to the scenes of emergencies to help save lives.”
Daniel Katzenstein, a volunteer medic with United Hatzalah, said he has often been asked what negative impact the children of medics may receive by seeing their father or mother deal with emergency situations.
"I don’t know what the answer to that question is and I’m not sure there is a way to tell. But I know that when I asked my kid what he wanted to dress up as for Purim and he said ‘a United Hatzalah medic,' I knew we were okay.”