The miracle of Hanukka at ZDVO – Beit Halochem

How a former combat soldier inspires hope.

Yehuda Persi  (photo credit: YEHUDA PERSI)
Yehuda Persi
(photo credit: YEHUDA PERSI)
Against all odds – blind veterans achieve the impossible. Yehuda Persi plunged into darkness, but found his light. At the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO) - Beit Halochem – miracles happen every day. IDF Disabled veterans’ inner light helps them overcome their daily struggle through their long rehabilitation.
Yehuda Persi, 28, a Givati Brigade fighter, was severely wounded when an anti-tank missile hit the jeep he was driving near the Gaza District. After multiple surgeries trying to salvage his vision, he is now back at his parents’ home in Ramle, blind Persi talks about the skirmish which led to ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’, his rehabilitation, living in eternal darkness, the hope that with time he may be able to see out of one of his eyes, and his inner spark which keeps him smiling.
Yehuda Persi in an outdoors activity  / YEHUDA PERSI
When Yehuda Persi wants to show off he says: “It’s because of me that ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ broke out. He’s right. On November 10, 2012, an anti-tank missile was launched at a Givati Brigade jeep in which commando fighters were patrolling. It was the first vehicle in the patrol, and Yehuda was the driver. He drove slowly and apparently, just as the route curved, a Hammas missile was launched at the jeep. It blew up on the hood and all the shrapnel flew into Yehuda’s face. Three months later, 23 year old Persi returned home, to Ramle. His face still pock marked with shrapnel, he has already undergone numerous difficult surgeries on his head and eyes, with many more lying ahead of him as well as a very long rehabilitation process. Despite all this, the smile never left his face.
“The truth of the matter is that I don’t remember a thing”, he smiles again. “All I know is what I was told by the combatants who were with me in the vehicle, or from friends from the regiment who saw everything from a distance. That really disturbs me”, he admits. “I’d like to be able to remember on my own just what happened”. Like many other young wounded, Yehuda made a surprising recovery. After only three days at the Soroka’s intensive care unit, he awoke. After a couple of days he was transferred to the Neurosurgical Department where he spent the next two weeks until his release to the Rehabilitation Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital. According to him, already at the initial stage, at Soroka, he understood that his vision had been badly hurt. “After about a week, when I figured out what they were doing to me, I realized I was blind."
Yehuda Persi in a climbing activity  / YEHUDA PERSI
What was the hardest thing for you, at least at the beginning? “Finding my way around space; not understanding what’s going on around me. People who would come to visit me, I could only recognize through their voices. Today, that has already changed a bit. The thought that concerns me is also one that keeps others preoccupied: what will the future bring? Before my injury I had planned to go to study and now I need to think differently, find something else. My entire life is one big question mark. I even sold my car. I have had a couple of thoughts like most people who are wounded: ‘Why me?’ But thanks to my upbringing I have learned always to look ahead and learn to cope ... Public awareness and special innovative technological equipment significantly help improve the quality of my life." Yehuda has become a very active participant at the Young Veterans Club of Tel Aviv’s Beit Halochem. He feels this is his natural environment and regularly joins their jeep trips, has taken part in rappelling outings, and has even taken the try out tests on the “Ski Simulator” so he can begin skiing on Mt. Hermon. His optimism knows no bounds.
I experience my life like all other normal people and I follow a mantra which hangs on my living room wall and which says: ‘If you can dream it you can do it’.
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