UK charity hosts Israel’s wounded in London

IDF Soldiers injured in combat spend a week in a prestigious London hotel, courtesy of One Family.

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.
Nadav Sicsic 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 again.”
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 congregation.
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 down.
“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.
“I 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 become.”
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 2005.
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.”