Haredi Orthodox Hatzoloh paramedics were Brussels attack first responders

A view of bomb damage as passengers are evacuated from Zaventem Bruxelles International Airport after a terrorist attack on in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. (Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

A view of bomb damage as passengers are evacuated from Zaventem Bruxelles International Airport after a terrorist attack on in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. (Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

(JTA) – Four haredi Orthodox paramedics from Antwerp who rushed to Brussels’ airport after it was attacked were among the first medical professionals on the scene, a Belgian paper revealed.

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

As legally certified ambulance service providers under Belgian law, the paramedics were therefore able to reach the scene of the March 22 terrorist bombings at Zaventem airport directly after the attack. That explosion and another one that occurred at a metro station in central Brussels about an hour later killed 35 people and wounded 300.

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

“The images I saw there, I will never forget,” Markowitz said. In the interview, he added that the mission was part of Hatzoloh’s commitment to Belgian countrymen in general and not specifically to Jews. “We didn’t know whether there were Jewish victims, we only knew they could use our help there,” he said.

While the identification of all the fatalities may take weeks and DNA tests, it is already known that at least three Jewish people were wounded in the attack. Water Benjamin, who was en route to be with his daughter in Israel, lost a leg in the attack. In addition, two students of a religious seminary, or yeshiva, from Antwerp were wounded. One of them is in a coma, according to the daily.

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