Folks, this interview reveals a truly sad, heartbreaking story of unspeakable inhumanity, but it also has another side, one of humanity, and of kindness and professionalism of an Israeli IDF paramedic who places his core value system at the very heart of what he does for a living. Sargent Edi Itelman also represents the professionalism and humanitarianism that is embedded within the DNA of the Israeli Defense Forces itself, something that the sergeant takes great pride in being a part of.
It was very difficult to listen to the sergeant’s step by step accounting of what he saw and experienced that night in the Itamar settlement, inside the Fogel household. The sight of the butchery is still fresh in many people’s minds, and of course, especially for those people who had to attend the scene personally.
The Tundra Tabloids is greatly appreciative to Sergeant Itelman for his service and taking the time to tell his story.
A Tundra Tabloids Transcript of the phone interview with Sergeant Edi (Edward) Itelman 22.03.11
Paramedic Sergeant, Edi Itelman, first responder to the house of the Fogel family in the Itamar settlement located in Judea, in the disputed territories. This is his personal account of what he saw and experienced that late Friday-early Saturday morning in the Itamar settlement.
I am a paramedic for the army, I serve in a special unit called the Military Mobile Intensive Care Unit. My ambulance is located approximately ten minutes from Itamar. From Friday night to Saturday approximately 1am (01:00) Israeli time I get a call that said that there’s been a terrorist penetration in Itamar and that I should go there because there is some wounded in Itamar, that there was a terrorist attack happening at the moment.
So I and another medic, the driver, go with the ambulance to Itamar. When we reach the house, of course we weren’t sure if the terrorists were still in the house or not when we got to the scene. There may be a situation where the terrorist is still in the house waiting for us to come in, so he could hurt us as well.
We reached the house, so we entered the house carefully – gun first and all that we entered the house to make sure no one else was there and started to attend the wounded. I entered the first room and saw a three year old child (Eldad) laying on a carpet, with three stab wounds in his chest, and I left my medic bag there to attend him, for I thought for a moment that he was still alive. We then realized later on that he was not.
I then entered the second room from the right, there’s a child of twelve years of age (Yoav) lying on his bed, butchered, that’s the word to describe it, his throat was slit. It was a very grotesque sight, an unpleasant sight, the head was nearly detached from the neck.
Then went into the third room and I see the mother (Ruth) laying on the floor in a pool of her own blood. She had multiple stab wounds. She too was dead on sight, checked her pulse and her breathing, but nothing. After that in the same room there was the father, again, laying dead on sight without pulse and breathing, with a single stab would approximately near his neck and the last one was the baby.
At first, the baby (Hadas) was kind of underneath him. When I first found the father (Udi) it was kind of like I couldn’t, well it looked like a blanket but it wasn’t a blanket, but you don’t know what you’re looking at. I turned her over and I found that it was a baby.
Question: Was the father on top of the baby trying to protect the baby?
Answer: It seems like the baby was behind the father, the father kind of laid over the child, but the baby was dead as well with one stab wound to her head. Through her skull. So these are the five patients I saw.
I came bag to my medical bag where I left it by the boy, and started to a medical assessment on him, and I realized right away that he was dead as well. Had been so for some time. The carpet around him was soaked with blood, there was no heart movement or breathing.
I then reported back, I said there were five casualties and there was nothing we could do for them, they were butchered before we could get there.
Question: Could you tell what it was like as a professional.
Answer: I tell you what, it’s different in personal terms, from the professional point of view, it was very very upsetting to me. As a paramedic I see so many people, and in this instance there is nothing I could do for the entire family, they just laid dead there before my eyes. There was absolutely nothing I could do for them, so as a professional it was absolutely frustrating.
Personally, the first thing that came to mind, is that I have a daughter not much older than the children, she is five, and it was kind of hard for me. I’ve seen terrorist attacks, I’ve seen suicide bombings, and I’ve seen a lot of those things, but in this case there was something personal to it. Blowing up with a bomb strapped to your chest, there’s nothing personal about, you just blow up and anyone around you dies. There’s no control over who dies, just everyone around you, but stabbing to death someone is very personal.
There were three kids and the terrorists, well they have their ideologies and I get it, I’m not saying it’s ok, it’s wrong, but I get it, it’s because of the conflict, but to stab three children to death is something that incomprehensible, you can’t understand it. You can’t understand how someone could do something like this.
That’s what bothered me, three children, how can you imagine hurting a little children and stabbing them with such brutality, there was gross brutality in these murders. It wasn’t just someone who stabbed a stranger, it was mass brutality, mass brutality, you could see that the terrorists stabbed them again and again and again until they were dead.
Question: Sorry for asking such a dispassionate question, but do you have any idea how much time it would take – if they could have responded earlier?
Answer: The family was dead approximately a half an hour before we arrived, there was nothing we could have done to save them. There are tiny Arab villages around here and we service everyone, we’re a humanitarian army, sorry to sound like an army spokesman which I’m really not, but this is the first thing, the reason why I became a paramedic because I do believe that we are a humanitarian army. So this is my opinion, I’m a paramedic, I speak of medicine, and in my opinion there was nothing that we could have done for those people.
Question: How difficult was it for you after seeing that carnage committed by a terrorist then treat Palestinians. I realize that you’re a professional, but the next time you have to treat a Palestinian…
Answer: I tell you the next time I have to treat a Palestinian, was the day after that, and you know who I got to treat? One of the people they captured for committing the terrorist attacks. He was arrested for being a part of the plan or something like that.
When he was in custody he had an attack of chronic bronchitis, he suffers from chronic bronchitis, and he had a massive attack with a shortness of breath, and this is something that is potentially deadly, people die from that. The only thing that I did was to be as professional as I can be, you don’t think of what he did, or what he could do in the future, you need to be 100% focused, because unless you can do that, you’re in the wrong business. I treated him as best as I could and he survived this massive attack of bronchitis.
Tundra Tabloids: Have you been in contact with any of the relatives of the murdered family?
Answer: Well I tell you what, the guy who was with me, he wanted to go to the funeral because we thought that it would be in Itamar. Eventually it was to be in Jerusalem and we couldn’t go because we’re stationed here. The next day we went over with the ambulance to see the house as a part of the routine to see the area, and we saw some people there, some people stopped to talk with us and ask us question. It’s such a small place, you need to understand that a settlement is a place with no more than 100 to 200 people, it’s a tiny tiny place, everyone knows everybody
I know some of the people there because I’ve served there. We talked to some of the people and it was difficult, so yes we did, we did get to talk with them.
Question: Could you tell us a bit about your service?
Answer: I tell you that becoming a paramedic is the best service I could have done, I am very happy to have become one. Now I’m giving you my own ideology. I believe that the Israeli Defense Forces are a very humanitarian army and it lets me do my job.
Whenever I have seriously injured Palestinian citizens or even a terrorist or something like that, I will treat them as the best I can and use the entire extent of the army’s resources. If I need a helicopter to the person to the hospital, I will get a helecopter, if I need a trauma surgeon in the hospital, they will have a trauma surgeon waiting for me. They will allow you to do your job. The only thing I focus on is on the job, in saving lives. You do not consider whose life you save, you can’t do that.
Question: Did you have any situations where you had to take care of any Palestinians?
Answer: Yes, there was a few weeks ago a car accident between two cars, both cars being Palestinian, they had Palestinian drivers, and we started doing our jobs, we started doing triage, eventually, this is why I told you earlier, I decided that he needed a helicopter and I got my helicopter ten minutes later, which is the shortest time a helicopter can get there. The patient went to a hospital that has a trauma facility.
This how we treat them all, everybody. The area where I work is half Israeli people and half Palestinian people and we believe that each and everyone deserves the same type of medicine and the same kind of care and this is what we give to everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Israeli, Palestinian or even a foreign citizen, we give the same care to everyone.
Tundra Tabloids: Edi, you’re an amazing individual and thank you for doing this, all my best to you.
Paramedic Sergeant, Edi Itelman: Thank you for letting me to talk with you. Thank you very much