Orthodox paramedics were among first responders to Brussels attack


(JTA) – Four haredi Orthodox paramedics from Antwerp who rushed to the main airport in Brussels following a terrorist attack there reportedly were among the first medical professionals on the scene.

The paramedics, who use motorcycles, are part of the Hatzolah emergency service that primarily serves the 12,000 haredi Jews living in the Jewish Quarter of Antwerp, the Gazet van Antwerpen daily reported Wednesday.

Certified ambulance service providers under Belgian law, the paramedics were able to reach the scene of the March 22 terrorist bombings at Zaventem Airport soon after the attack. The bombings there and at subway station in central Brussels about an hour later killed 32 people and wounded 300.

Hatzolah Chairman Samuel Markowitz told the daily he was the only Hatzolah volunteer who arrived at the scene in a car, with his treatment kit in the trunk. The other paramedics sped there on motorcycles and began treating the wounded immediately.

“The images I saw there, I will never forget,” Markowitz said, adding that the response was part of Hatzolah’s commitment to serving all Belgians, not just Jews.

“We didn’t know whether there were Jewish victims, we only knew they could use our help there,” he said.

While identification of all the dead may take weeks and require DNA testing, it is already known that at least three Jewish people were wounded in the attack.

Walter Benjamin, who was en route to be with his daughter in Israel, lost a leg in the attack. In addition, two seminary students from Antwerp were wounded. One is in a coma, according to the daily.

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