Operation Cast Lead’s wounded soldiers hit London

London-based Jewish charity One Family hosts 9 combat soldiers in UK capital.

By JONNY PAUL
January 31, 2010 06:40
4 minute read.
Soldiers wounded in Operation Cast Lead pose in Lo

Cast lead wounded london. (photo credit: Jonny Paul)

 
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LONDON – A group of Israel’s most seriously wounded soldiers from Operation Cast Lead are returning to Israel on Sunday after a week of recuperation and rest organized and funded by a UK charity.

London-based Jewish charity One Family, set up to help rebuild the lives of Israeli soldiers wounded in action and victims of terrorist attacks, brought nine combat soldiers to London, all of whom were severely wounded during the Gaza conflict last year.

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The soldiers spent the week at one of London’s most iconic hotels, the Grove Hotel in Watford, north London, after the owners donated the hotel’s most luxurious suites to the group.

For most, it was their first time out of Israel. For Ran Avraham, an officer with the paratroopers who was critically wounded on the last day of fighting after coming under fire in Gaza, it was his first time he took off and landed in an airplane.


The soldiers visited London’s major tourist attractions and saw the musical The Lion King in London’s West End theater district. The highlight was attending a football match. The soldiers had VIP tickets donated by members of the Jewish community and saw Arsenal play at the Emirates Stadium in north London. For most, it was a vital respite from the continuous and uncomfortable treatments they continue to undergo. All of the soldiers were critically injured and the trip served to give them support and a break from their every day lives.

Serving with Golani in Gaza, Dvir Bar-Chai was shot in an ambush and was thought to only have leg injuries at first but when he failed to gain consciousness after an operation, doctors diagnosed a blood clot in his head. Dvir only gained consciousness five months later and only began to regain his former cognitive abilities in the last three months.

“It was truly one of the greatest weeks I have ever had and definitely the best in the last year,” he said.

Dvir’s carer, Shuki Leavitt said: “Every smile you gave us here reflected on Dvir’s progress.”

Paratroopers Ran Eliay and Roi Zuzut came under fire from a rocket propelled grenade, together with their officer Ran Avraham, in Gaza during the last day of fighting. Both had just one month remaining to complete their army service.

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Ran was forced to have a leg amputated and is confined to a wheelchair while Roi delayed a further operation to be with his friends in London.

“This was the best week I have had during the last difficult year. It’s amazing to learn that there are people that love and support us. I will never forget what you have done for us. I am not good with words but I want to say a huge thank you to One Family for a wonderful time,” Roi said.

Ben Bucknik served with Givati and was the last soldier injured in the conflict. On the last day of the war his unit was based in an abandoned house in Gaza when they were fired on. A rocket propelled grenade slammed into the wall next to Ben causing the house to collapse on him. He was critically wounded and suffered head injuries causing him to tire easily and suffer occasional epileptic seizures.

“The week made me feel good. The love from the people we got touched me very much,” he said.

Eitan Kariti, served with Givati and was seriously injured from rocket fire. He endured many operations and still has pins in his legs.

“Every day I was here made me forget my injuries. I had the perfect week since I was injured. We only got injured but we were treated like kings,” Eitan said.

Noam Nakash was wounded a month before Operation Cast Lead when a mortar hit Nahal Oz army base on the Gaza border. Noam was critically injured and had to have a leg amputated. Doctors managed to save his other leg. “This week has done us all good because happiness is the best medicine of all,” he said.






Bringing over a group of injured soldiers has inspired us all and their time in London has contributed a huge amount to their rehabilitation,” said One Family chairman Naomi Nevis.

One Family hopes the group will return to Israel with added hope and courage to face their own personal battles ahead.

Having met so many people who have offered friendship, support and encouragement has been the best medicine they could ever receive and it is clear that this week in London has been a turning point in their lives,” Nevis said.

We were honored to be able to bring them to London. Their inner strength is a wonderful example of courage and the endurance of the human spirit. With the help of One Family they have begun the tortuous journey to cope with the present and build for the future.”

Andrew Alexander, One Family’s chief executive, said the charity will be helping other wounded soldiers and victims of terror. In March, the organization is bringing to London a group who has lost siblings in terrorist attacks.



While they are all truly remarkable, they are unfortunately not alone. Tragically there are many other victims in need of our help. For as long as they need our support, we at One Family will be there,” he said.

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