March 26, 2019

Danielle Bukra: One Woman Global Rescue Mission

Danielle Bukra is naturally drawn to people who have experienced trauma, and that, coupled with her insatiable desire to travel, was why she chose to work in a high-stakes rescue organization.

When she was 14, Danielle Bukra made a list of things she wanted to accomplish by the age of 30, including living on a desert island, sky-diving, getting a tattoo, learning sign language, deep-sea diving with whale sharks, bungee-jumping in Thailand, and drinking coconut water out of a coconut on a yacht in the Bahamas. By 30, Bukra had done all these things and more.

Over the past three years, Bukra, now 32, traveled to the United States and worked for a Kansas-based construction company that sent her around the Midwest. The job was a means to an end: traveling. “I don’t want to wait until I’m 70 and my body is half-working to start traveling,” she said. 

In those three action-packed years, Bukra traveled all over the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Egypt and spent eight months in Mauritius before embarking on what she called a World Cup tour in Europe. Because she didn’t have money to attend World Cup soccer games in Russia, she coordinated stops in participating countries, so that when there was a game featuring the team from Belgium, for instance, she flew there, and likewise for Switzerland, France and so on, watching the games alongside rambunctious soccer fans at random bars. 

“Danielle Bukra is naturally drawn to people who have experienced trauma, and that, coupled with her insatiable desire to travel, was why she chose to work in a high-stakes rescue organization.”

Part of Bukra’s impulse for travel and adventure is a vague feeling that has accompanied her all her life that she is destined to die young. The feeling, she said, is largely because of her namesake. She was named after a cousin, Daniel, who was killed in the 1982 Lebanon War, and throughout her life, Bukra had been aware of the whisperings of rabbis who tut-tutted that naming a child after someone who died in tragic circumstances never bodes well. She was stationed at the Lebanon border during the second Lebanon War in 2006

The other part, Bukra said, has to do with her perceptions about the fleeting nature of life.  “We are a country where everyone has a bit of PTSD,” she said. Bukra is naturally drawn to people who have experienced trauma, and that, coupled with her insatiable desire to travel, was why she chose to work in a high-stakes rescue organization and why she is now pursuing a master’s degree in public health in emergency and disaster management at Tel Aviv University.

Bukra worked for Magnus International Search & Rescue, an organization headed by Hilik Magnus, an Israeli septuagenarian famous for executing dangerous rescue operations stemming from kidnappings, missing persons and medical evacuations. Bukra is not in a position to talk about the work she did for Magnus, and said only that it was “fulfilling but very mentally challenging.”

Pursuing a master’s degree has forced Bukra to hunker down in Tel Aviv for the time being, and get a “boring” job on the side at an insurance company. But when she’s done, the degree will enable her to help people in emergency situations all over the world, as well as enable her to resume the role she said she’s played for the past 20 years: unofficial ambassador for Israel.