AFTER BEING severely injured while leading a patrol along the Gaza border in 2012, and currently on rehabilitative leave from the IDF Givati Brigade, Capt. Ziv Shilon (center) kept a promise he made to friends, family and himself by meeting his goal of running the Berlin Marathon on September 27..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
October 2012: Captain Ziv Shilon, a promising company commander in the Givati Brigade was leading a patrol along the Gazan border. Enemy snipers had been using Gazan homes to shoot at Israelis. Yet rather than attack these targets from the air, the IDF used foot-soldiers to lead its forces in order to pinpoint and thwart these terrorists at close range.
It was the company’s final mission, culminating their operational training.
Ziv ordered his men to wait 150 meters behind as he advanced to open the last gate along the border. He would be “right back” he told them. Soon they will be boarding the buses taking them to the ceremony – the finish line of their combat qualification.
It is a finish line he would not cross.
An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted by the terrorists blew up in his face.
Severely injured, Ziv saw he lost both of his hands. He grabbed his severed arms, and with a 30-plus-kilogram pack strapped on, raced back to his soldiers who were shocked by the massive explosion.
Ziv reached his men after head-butting a soldier frozen by the horrific scene and ordering him to apply life-saving tourniquets.
When he woke up at the hospital two weeks later, Ziv faced a new battle. Refusing a discharge, Ziv held onto his dream of returning to service, hoping once again to command the soldiers he loves.
In the meantime, he enrolled at the Herzliya Inter-Disciplinary Center, and traveled abroad, inspiring all who heard him with his dedication and optimism.
At a speech in Miami for the Friends of the IDF, he surprised his girlfriend Adi, asking for her hand in front of the audience.
September 2015: Less than three years after his injury, Ziv registered for the Berlin Marathon, which was held this past Sunday. Ziv has undergone over 14 surgeries and intensive rehabilitation.
He has engaged a long-distance running coach. He trains day and night. Nobody can tell how much he can do.
Only Ziv knows.
As the marathon approached, Ziv asked my son Akiva, Givati’s Combat Fitness Training Officer, first to help him prepare, and then accompany him every step of the way. Doctors and coaches can only get you so far. It is the warrior ethos, shared by comrades, which will help Ziv traverse the 42 kilometers.
They ran through the streets together, proudly wearing dry fit shirts they designed for the race, replete with Givati emblems and Israeli flags boldly displayed.
Ziv’s shirt also included a picture of “Joucha”, Givati Major Yochay “Joucha” Kalangel, who fell last year.
They ran alongside 40,000 other runners. However they felt the presence of millions.
They were members of an unconquerable people, running past the venue where Hitler proclaimed the beginning of his 1,000 year Reich… and his war against the Jews.
Eli, another Givati officer who flew in for the race, joined them at a pre-arranged point towards the end, to help give a final push.
Approaching the finish line, the men unfurled a huge Israeli flag.
It is an everlasting symbol of Ziv’s indomitable spirit.
This is one finish line that Ziv was able to cross, for himself and for his people.