Healing the nation: Group of medical personnel to jointly light Independence Day torch

Hospital doctors, a nurse, a 20-year-old female IDF paramedic severely wounded in Gaza and a health nonprofit founder will share the honor

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Wounded IDF paramedic Gaya Zubery (left) speaks with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi as he visits wounded soldiers at Sheba Medical Center. (IDF)
Wounded IDF paramedic Gaya Zubery (left) speaks with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi as he visits wounded soldiers at Sheba Medical Center. (IDF)

Five individuals from the medical and rehabilitation fields will jointly light one of the 12 torches at the national ceremony marking the transition between Memorial Day and Israel’s 76th Independence Day.

In accordance with this year’s solemn circumstances, the ceremony will not take place as usual on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Instead, the torch lighting will be held in Gaza border communities and military bases attacked by Hamas on October 7. The event will be pre-recorded and broadcast on Monday evening.

The medical and rehabilitation torch-lighting group represents the many civilian, military, and volunteer medical personnel who have worked ceaselessly since the war began to treat the wounded.

The five representatives are: Anat Ben Dor, head of orthopedic rehabilitation nursing at Sheba Medical Center; Gaya Zubery, an IDF paramedic and the only female soldier seriously wounded in Gaza; Dr. Dikla Matzliah, an ear, nose, and throat expert and head and neck surgeon at Barzilai Medical Center; Dr. Dan Schwarzfuchs, deputy director-general of Soroka Medical Center and head of its emergency medicine department; and Rabbi Yosef Erblich, founder and head of the Bnei Brak-based nonprofit Lema’anchem.

The official announcement of this year’s torch lighters made special reference to the extensive and intensive efforts to save lives on and since October 7.

“The Israeli medical system, especially the southern hospitals Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba and Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, often acted under fire and with staff members called up for military service. With great dedication, they gave medical treatment to thousands of wounded people who arrived in ambulances and private vehicles, carrying out lifesaving surgery after surgery,” it said.

“Joining them were the other hospitals throughout the country, who received many of the injured for further treatment and rehabilitation. Tens of thousands of medical and rehabilitation staff continue to care for the physically and psychologically wounded in their long and difficult journey toward healing.”

Gaya Zubery

Wounded IDF paramedic Gaya Zubery does rehabilitation exercises at Sheba Medical Center (Sharon Yaniv/Sheba Medical Center)

Twenty-year-old IDF paramedic Sgt. Gaya Zubery was attached to a tank unit battling terror operatives in Shejaiya on December 7. She exited her armored medical vehicle to treat soldiers who had been wounded when their tank ran over an explosive device. As she moved toward the soldiers, she was shot in the legs.

“I couldn’t feel my legs and I fell forward. I just lay with my face on the ground, shouting, “I’ve been hurt! I’ve been hurt!” Zubery told Channel 12 news.

She was rushed to Soroka in Beersheba, where surgeons succeeded in saving her legs. She was transferred to Sheba for rehabilitation treatment, which she continues.

Dr. Dan Schwarzfuchs

Dr. Dan Schwarzfuchs, deputy director of Soroka Medical Center and head of its emergency medicine department (Courtesy of Soroka)

Schwarzfuchs arrived at Soroka at 6:40 a.m. on October 7 to run the unfolding mass casualty event, in what would become the worst terrorist attack in Israeli history. More than 670 wounded were evacuated to Soroka that day — 130 of them in serious or critical condition. Hundreds of others were taken to other hospitals.

Soroka reported on May 10 that it had treated 2,981 individuals wounded in the war since October 7.

“It is a great honor for me to light a torch for the glory of the State of Israel and that of my colleagues at Soroka, who have been steadfast in their professional and dedicated work on behalf of the Negev and the entire nation,” Schwarzfuchs told a publication for Israeli medical professionals.

Dr. Dikla Mazliah

Dr. Dikla Mazliah, an ear, nose, and throat physician and head and neck surgeon at Barzilai Medical Center (Courtesy of Barzilai)

Dr. Dikla Matzliah cared for the wounded at Barzilai and on the battlefield. After working without sleep to treat victims streaming into her hospital on October 7 and the following days, she was called up to IDF reserve duty a few weeks later. As a captain in the Medical Corps, she was attached to several different combat units on the northern border, in Gaza, and in the West Bank over several months.

“It is so moving and so symbolic that Dr. Matzliah represents [Israel’s] recovery, having fought for the lives of soldiers on the battlefield and the wounded in the hospital,” said a Barzilai spokesperson.

Anat Ben Dor

Anat Ben Dor, head of orthopedic rehabilitation nursing at Sheba Medical Center (Amital Isaac/Sheba Medical Center)

Anat Ben Dor has been a nurse at Sheba Medical Center for 35 years. As head of the orthopedic rehabilitation nursing service, she cares for some of the most seriously injured and is helping them find their way back to life.

Ben Dor said she would light the torch on behalf of all her colleagues at Sheba, especially those from the nursing and rehabilitation staff.

“Treating and caring for our brave warriors is a privilege and a calling for me and my colleagues,” Ben Dor said.

Rabbi Yosef Ehrblich

Rabbi Yosef Erblich (center in red vest) visits a wounded solder in an Israeli hospital. (Courtesy of Lema’anchem)

A torch lighter this year, Erblich has previously received the Presidential Award for Volunteerism.

Lema’anchem, the organization founded by Erblich, kicked into emergency mode on October 7. Its employees and volunteers immediately spread out to all the hospitals to provide emotional support and medical resource information to patients and their families. The organization also expanded its hotline capacity and began programs to help fill gaps in the medical system left by medical professionals who had been called to reserve military duty.

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