Thursday, September 24, 2020

Only in Israel. Young Oleh from The Lower East Side of Manhattan saves an elderly missing oleh from Ethiopia

 A Rosh Hashanah that changed Bram and his friend's lives and the lives of those who they helped rescue              
        From the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Israel
The following is a short diary of events depicting the life-saving journey of Bram a Jewish kid who hails from the Lower East Side of New York City, and who succeeded in saving a life of an Ethiopian Jew in Israel, Rosh Hashanah, marking his 4th successful mission and find with the IDU, Israel's lead civilian canine security and SAR unit.
 Just as they were settling down for dinner, the rest of their Chag and their plans were changed completely. Known as the busiest day of the week, Friday, September 18th 2020 –coupled with Erev Rosh Hashanah- was no exception. Especially for the volunteers at the Israel Dog Unit HQ, located in Kfar Tappuach of the Shomron. After cooking, cleaning, organizing, shopping, taking care of the dogs, conducting basic maintenance, along with a whole horde of other chores and errands – including dealing with 2 high risk missing person cases – the members of the IDU's 24-hour emergency response team had a collective sigh of relief as they were finally able to wish their families a final "shanah tova" and head up to the synagogue for Shabbat/Rosh Hashanah prayers. Finally, after a tough, hectic, hardworking day, these special volunteers who devote their every spare minute to the lifesaving activities of the IDU would be able to enjoy a nice and peaceful holiday meal and welcome in the new year. However, what they did not know, was that this vision of a serene, peaceful non-eventful holiday 
was not to be.

Called out to a rescue operation during Rosh Hashanah Dinner.
Just as they were settling down for dinner, the rest of their Chag was changed completely. All of the jovial conversation quickly went silent as the volunteers heard the emergency phone line ring from the other room. On the other end was policeman Guy of the Lod Police Department informing them of the disappearance of Avraham Gitnekh, a 65-year-old dementia patient who left his house Thursday at 12:00 PM (almost 2 days earlier) not to be seen since! The volunteers present looked to Mike Ben-Yaakov, Commander and Founder of the IDU, for the next steps. Ben-Yaakov quickly identified the case as a high risk and proceeded to deploy David and Yosef, 2 experienced IDU volunteers, equipped with a SAR dog and a thermal camera mounted on a drone. At about 5:00 AM Shabbat morning, David and Yosef returned after covering their assigned areas; unfortunately, without any news on Avraham, the missing person. As per the plan, David and Yosef woke the second shift of volunteers, including Commander Ben-Yaakov, who packed the van with the necessary dogs, food and equipment in order to be able to independently set up a complete search HQ for an indefinite amount of time.
A few hours later, Ben-Yaakov and the volunteers with him arrived at the Lod Police Station where the local police chief allocated the precinct conference room to the IDU team from which to conduct the search for Avraham. IDU navigators immediately started examining maps and identifying the relevant areas.  Martin and Joseph two local Tel Aviv dog- handlers were sent to do a couple of relevant areas north of Avraham's house while 2 more volunteers, Bram and Yitzy, were sent with SAR dog Yenta to cover the south.

Guy asked Mike to deploy additional dog-handlers and drones in Kiryat Gat, Avraham's likely destination, as he lived in Kiryat Gat from the moment he made Aliya from Ethiopia in the mid-1980s. He had only moved to Lod three weeks prior to his disappearance.
Zev and Bnaya from the IDU's Gush Etzyon branch, were sent to meet Guy at a bus stop on Kiryat Gat, where clothing had been spotted that resembled the clothing that Avraham was seen in on the security cameras outside of his home. The Gush Etzyon team search nearby orchards, without any sign of Avraham, and then moved on to join the Tapuach and Tel Aviv IDU teams at the IDU command center in the Lod police station.

Missing for two days, the clock was ticking, not in Avraham's favor, in the boiling heat
 At this point it was a full 2 days after Avraham's disappearance and he was considered to be in very grave danger. As Bram, Yitzy and SAR dog Yenta approached their assigned area, they realized that from the attempted point of entry the area was mostly fenced off. They logically decided to split up and go along the perimeter of the area in different directions searching all entry points on the way. As Yitzy and SAR dog Yenta headed east, Bram headed south and soon found a suitable entry point to a very interesting abandoned parking lot, overgrown and unmaintained: a perfect example of where a missing dementia patient, such as Avraham, could be slowly dehydrating in and waiting for help. However, after searching the area very efficiently, making sure to check every possible rock and tree where Avraham could be, Bram left the area convinced that Avraham was not there. Another 200 yards down, now heading east, Bram happened upon another entry point: an unkempt trail going around a small hill with a very steep drop into a jungle of thick thorns and brush. Fearing that Avraham could have fallen into the unfriendly plants, Bram quickly started battling his way through the valley, searching every possible plant.

The missing person was found alive.
After about 50 yards of this, Bram exited the thorns and proceeded to return to the trail only to be pleasantly surprised by a man with Avraham's description lying on the ground just a few feet away! After sending his findings to the search HQ, Bram realized that the man, presumed to be Avraham, was extremely dehydrated from lying in the sun for so long without water. He gently carried him to a shady spot not too far away and proceeded to give him to drink from his own water supply. Soon after, the police came with a family member who confirmed that the man found was indeed Avraham and quickly rushed him to an ambulance from where he was then taken to the hospital.
Bram and the other volunteers who were then searching proceeded to return to the police station where the search was headquartered to celebrate the happy ending of this intense episode as well as the remainder of Shabbat and the Chag.  G-d works in mysterious ways. Amir Ohana, Israel's minister of Internal Security, came to visit the Corona check points in Lod and to meet with Lod's Chief of Police, who congratulated the police and the IDU volunteers on the impressive find and for saving Avraham's life. However, the story does not end here!

This was only the beginning of an adventurous Rosh Hashanah
After the celebrating, the IDU team packed up all the dogs and equipment to head back to base in case of another search. They didn’t have to wait long. About 20 minutes into the drive home, the phone rang once again. This time the call came from Dudi Mayblum, Head of the IDU's northern branch, informing the carload of volunteers about a missing Alzheimer's patient, Moshe Senior, in the Neve Chof neighborhood of Rishon Letzion. Without missing a beat, Commander Mike Ben-Yaakov along with the eager volunteers, turned around the van, and headed out to the area of the search. Once arriving, Ben-Yaakov got ahold of the policeman in charge of the search who then relayed the relevant information. After learning all that he needed to know, Ben-Yaakov then deployed the volunteers in the car with him along with others who arrived on their own. After about an hour of searching, Commander Ben-Yaakov received the good news that Mr. Senior was found alive.
After receiving the good news, it seemed that the IDU team, exhausted from a long day, would finally be able to return home. Once the IDU team returned to their base in Kfar Tappuach of the Shomron, they quickly took care of the dogs who were also exhausted, before finally sitting down to make Kiddush, eat something and enjoy the rest of the Chag. This was already long after midnight. However, just as they were making Kiddush, the phone rang for the third time. Calling from Nahariya in the north, a young lady informed Commander Ben-Yaakov of the disappearance of her grandfather Vladimir Freifeld, an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient, who rode off on his bicycle and hadn't been seen for 18 hours. Ben-Yaakov quickly dialed IDU North who proceeded to search the relevant areas until Vladimir was ultimately found alive. We say many times in the Rosh Hashana prayers, the books of life and death are open before G-d and he judges each creature individually and inscribes them for life or sadly, sometimes the alternative. With 3 high risk cases within 24-hours of each other all found alive thanks to G-d as well as His messengers in the IDU, we can say that this year, cannot be off to a better start. G-d has smiled on the respective missing people and He has smiled on the volunteers of the IDU to whom He gave the privilege of having a hand in the rescue of all three.

Where else can a Lower East Side kid join a unit, adopt a dog and start saving lives?
The IDU is more than just a national unit that saves lives with security and SAR dogs in Israel. For Bram and the other young IDU volunteers, it is a unique opportunity of a life-time to be a part of an operational unit that engages in security and search and rescue missions every day. For Bram this was his fourth find. Not bad for a 19-year-old immigrant from the Lower East side who moved to Passaic before making his journey to Israel. Bram has had no shortage of adventure and adversary since he moved to Israel almost two years ago, studying in the pre-military academy at Keshet in the Golan. He was one of Israel's first Corona patients, labeled patient 260. He beat Corona, with G-d's help and now he continues to save the lives of others in Israel.

Israeli Police Thank The I.D.U. For Saving a Missing Person's Life

 Incredible footage from the award ceremony at the Lod police station Sept 24, 2020 LMinyanam

 IDU Spokesman: 

Despite the spectre of COVID-19, an emotionally charged ceremony was held this morning at the Lod Police Station where the family of a missing person met the IDU dog handlers who saved him. 

Lod Police Chief, Superintendent Shimon Dahan, together with Superintendent Guy Bacchar, Cheif of Operations, presented certificates of appreciation and esteem to Israel Dog Unit volunteers for their resourcefulness and success in locating the missing Darba Avraham Gatenach, age 65, after he became disoriented and found himself lost in deep brush on Rosh Hashana Eve. 

Two days after Avraham went missing, the family and the forces whom had been searching for him had resigned themselves to the conclusion that they would no longer find their dear Avraham alive due to the harsh heat wave at the time. The Israel Dog Unit refused to surrender and pushed on with the search.

After deploying many volunteers for hours in the intense heat, Avraham was finally found alive, by Bram Settenbrino of the IDU. Bram found him lying on the ground, dehydrated and exposed to the blaring sun for more than two days. Bram then proceeded to carry him to a shady spot and called emergency services who quickly came and gave him medical attention before whisking him off to the hospital where he is currently rehabilitating.

In a rare display of gratitude, IDU commander Mike Ben-Yaakov fastened the IDU's pin to both Chief Superintendant Dahan and Superintendant Bachar to thank them for their cooperation, saying "You too deserve recognition for being a precinct that knows the value of the life of a missing person, and for taking the initiative to call on professionals with the ability to succeed in that task and provide them the required environment - which in this case included the use of the station's command center. It would have been very difficult to continue the search otherwise."

Chief Superintendant Dahan thanked the IDU, saying: "What sets the IDU apart from all other forces is the motivation and perseverance of its volunteers as well as it’s cutting edge technology that even the police have such as the special mobile application developed by the IDU Technology Department which helps effectively manage search operations and document all troop movement” 

Esti, Avraham’s niece, presented certificates to the station commander, as well as the IDU, and United Hatzalah, adding: "We would never have dreamed to look for Avraham in that place; without the intervention of the IDU he would have died, G-d forbid.”

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Friday, September 18, 2020

IDU Pre-Rosh HaShanah Update

July 8th, 2020: IDU Security Dog in Hebron stops Terror Attack and IDU SAR Team "refinds" missing person

July 8th "liminyanam" was an active day for the Israel Dog Unit, for both the security and search and rescue departments. The day started with a call from an IDF reserve combat platoon which spotted a person that strongly resembled Zusha Brandwein, a missing person sought after by the IDU for several months. Barak, the soldier who called in the missing person, recalled seeing Zusha's picture on an IDU flier. The IDU immediately dispatched a search team to the area and found the "missing person". However, the missing person was actually a different missing person who had been found and rescued by the IDU several years ago who had strongly resembled Zusha. After the rendezvous with T.S., our "refound" missing person, the IDU SAR team was invited for coffee by Barak and the other soldiers on their nearby base. Just as the IDU volunteers were about to perform an impromptu dog show for the IDF soldiers, a call came in from Dr. Ben-Tarya who gave us the good news that Ayeshala the IDU security dog that was stationed in his home scared away an arab terrorist squad who attempted to penetrate into the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Hebron. Ben-Tarya thanked profusely the IDU, recalling that there have been multiple attempts to break into his home prior to receiving Ayeshala.

July 12th, 2020: Amos Netzer, the Mayor of the Zevulun Region and Nir Yonah, the Chief of                                                         Zevulun Police Visit IDU Command Center

During the 4 day search for Roni Waller, of blessed memory, the IDU lead hundreds of volunteers, including Amos Netzer (Mayor) and Nir Yonah (Chief of Police). 65-year-old Waller disappeared on July 12th, during a hike in a wilderness near his home. Waller, who had earlier suffered from a stroke,  fell into a ditch under heavy brush and was found dead by Danna, an IDU cadaver dog working with IDU volunteers.

July 18th, 2020: IDU Assists IDF in Pursuit of Arab Car Thieves

A ring of arab thieves who stole a car in Ariel and ditched it alongside highway 5 fled on foot. IDU dog handlers and drones assisted in the pursuit of the thieves.

July 21st, 2020: IDU performs dog show for lone soldiers in Gush Etzion

July 22nd, 2020: IDU holds important exercise at earthquake rubble site


                                 July 23rd, 2020: IDU receives award from Zevulun Police Department                                                     

August 3rd, 2020: IDU holds dog show for special needs children in Jerusalem

August 10th, 2020: IDU holds another dog show for special needs children in Jerusalem

August 13th, 2020: IDU Gush Etzion Commander, Michah Katz, receives award from Kibbutz Migdal Oz Security Chief.

August 25th, 2020: Dudi Mayblum, IDU Commander of Northern Operations, receives award from Israeli Police for aiding in the finding and rescuing of Yvgeny Kolyaba who went missing 4 days earlier from Kiryat Yam.

September 3rd, 2020: IDU SAR team finds Ronah Hilo of blessed memory

The IDU command center which was donated by Harel Insurance Company, managed more than 400 volunteers, including the deputy mayor of Petach Tikva, Moshe Ben-Sadok, as well as dogs, horses, kayaks, drones and jeeps in a race against the clock to save the life of 52-year-old Ronah Hilo. After 9 days of searching, Ronah's body was recovered -unfortunately deceased- by an IDU SAR team.

The IDU wishes all of its volunteers and supporters a great new year; a year of happiness, health, wealth, spiritually and physically.

Shanah tovah!

To join the IDU or to donate to the emergency crowdfunding campaign to raise urgently needed funds to keep the unit 
afloat please visit and forward the link to the emergency crowd funding campaign.