(photo credit: )
LONDON – A group of injured Israeli soldiers, including a Navy commander wounded
in last year’s Gaza flotilla incident, are returning to Israel on Sunday after a
week in London, organized by a Jewish charity and described by a participant as
“one of the best weeks of his life.”
One Family, a London-based charity
that helps rebuild the lives of Israeli soldiers wounded in action and of terror
attack victims, brought a group of 16 combat soldiers injured in action along
with young victims of suicide bomb and Kassam rocket attacks.
With a week
full of activity – and staying in one of London’s most prestigious hotels, the
Grove Hotel in Watford – the group described how their time in England’s capital
was so beneficial to their recuperation and outlook on life.
served in the Golani unit and was wounded by a rocketpropelled grenade (RPG)
during an operation in Gaza in 2007. After many operations, doctors were forced
to amputate his right leg. Today he has a prosthetic limb.
“The week in
London was one of the best weeks I have had in my life,” he said. “It is so
great to see how people abroad care about us and are so warm.
It gave me
such a good feeling and the strength to continue. Though life is not easy, this
has given me support for what is to come, knowing that people out there support
us and care and want to help.”
Tal Shabat served in the elite Shayetet
unit and was shot by a sniper during an exercise in Gaza in 2006. He requires
care around the clock and does not get out the house much.
“This has been
the most amazing week; it’s the first time in a long time that I am with young
people again,” he said. “It has showed me that there is a world – maybe [it’s]
because of a lack of confidence but I have always felt different to others, and
this is the first time I am with friends and young people and I feel normal
Ran Shauluv from Pardes Hanna, a paratrooper injured in Gaza, is
suffering from post-war trauma and is continually receiving treatment. He said
the trip gave him “confidence, peace of mind and [the knowledge] that tomorrow
there is hope.”
Snir Azlan, from Kiryat Ata, served in Golani and was
also injured during Operation Cast Lead. His arm was ripped off in an explosion
and was reattached once he reached hospital.
“The community was amazing,
the week was incredible. I return with much energy and with such a good
feeling,” he said.
The week included seeing the West End musical The Lion
King, attending an Arsenal football game at Emirates Stadium and interacting
with the local Jewish community at various dinner parties. Over Shabbat, the
group enjoyed a lunch at Kinloss Synagogue as special guests of the
Organizers from One Family also described how the trip
impacted the group.
“I can truly say that this week was very humbling and
inspiring for all who had the privilege to meet these very special heroes of
Israel,” said Vivien Friedman from One Family.
“The transformation in
their emotional state has been unbelievable, watching their smiles getting
bigger each day.
“Last week they were all strangers; this week I feel we
are like family. The care and concern for each other was very moving to see –
when one was unfortunately sick and had to go to hospital, they were all
“I feel very privileged to be a founder member of One Family UK and
to work with such a devoted and loyal team,” she added.
Shlomo Hasson was
injured in 2004, during a failed terror attack by terrorists in Gaza attempting
to reach Ashkelon power station. A boat along the coast near where his unit had
stopped exploded. He suffered shrapnel injures and still has pieces lodged in
his head, back and behind his eye, impairing his vision in that eye.
feel so good, so much better,” he said. “The community have been amazing, I have
met such wonderful people and I can’t begin to tell you how happy I have
Victims of terrorist attacks were also part of the group. Adi
Huja suffered injuries after a triple suicide bomb attack on Ben-Yehuda Street
in central Jerusalem in 2001 and Doron Ra’ani, together with his mother, was
injured in a suicide bomb attack on the Netanya shopping mall in
Adir Hagbi from Sderot is struggling with trauma after a Kassam
rocket hit his home while he slept. He has received counseling for three years
but still suffers from nightmares and panic attacks.
“In London I’ve
managed to escape the fear, it’s been so good for me,” Hagbi said. “It gives me
confidence to feel the love of the Jewish community, who feel our pain. I thank
you so much.”