Meet the people helping IDF soldiers with PTSD

‘The huge hug, thank you I got was what I needed.’

 Dvir Dahan during his IDF service.  (photo credit: COURTESY OF DVIR DAHAN)
Dvir Dahan during his IDF service.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF DVIR DAHAN)

Dvir Dahan was injured physically and emotionally during his IDF army service in 2018 during a raid to arrest terrorists in Ramallah.

His hand was struck by pieces of an improvised explosive device thrown by Palestinians in the middle of an altercation during the raid, requiring many surgeries and rendering him unable to write his name out on job applications for an extended period.

Until Belev Echad (One Heart) - a global movement dedicated to ensuring the wounded men and women of the IDF receive the support they need to live productive and well-adjusted lives after their injuries – intervened, he was on a downward spiral and he is not sure where he would have ended up.

Dahan said that serving in Ramallah was “at the heart of all of the chaos in Judea and Samaria, the most wanted people are there and there is an intifada every day.”

Only a few months before his combat service was due to conclude, he was on one of his nightly raids near Qalandia.

 Dvir Dahan during his IDF service.  (credit: COURTESY OF DVIR DAHAN)
Dvir Dahan during his IDF service. (credit: COURTESY OF DVIR DAHAN)

According to Dahan, since he was a direct forward command aid to the battalion commander, he was with the commander at all times, which meant being “at the fault line of everything.”

As Dahan and his group were about to enter a house to arrest a wanted Palestinian, some Palestinians started to throw a series of a mix of improvised explosive devices and rocks at them.

“Large amounts of nails and glass penetrated my hand. After all the surgeries, I still have many small pieces of glass stuck in my hand near the nerves,” he recounted.

Next, he said, “We had no jeeps, no anything. We went into the house and then saw my hand was full of blood. But there was nothing we could do in that moment” in the middle of battle and arrests, so I threw my weapon behind me over my shoulder and we tied a ripped piece of uniform around my hand. We were in the operation from around 2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and then hiked back to the base on foot around 10 kilometers – with my hand bleeding the whole time.”

“When the base paramedic saw him, he exclaimed ‘what the ‘&&&&’!” in shock that he had continued on with the mission for several hours despite being significantly wounded.

His counterpart soldiers advised that he was “no longer coherent” and they “immediately gave me morphine and ran me off to surgery.”

“For two years, I couldn’t hold a pen. It was hard to do interviews because it was hard to write my name and people would stare thinking ‘what’s with this disabled person?’” he explained painfully.

He said that “I had always been someone with big ambitions, but now I was always going to treatments . It was hard to hold onto and speak on the phone. It was hard to use a computer or to write things. But I didn’t give up. I thank god I went to get treatment and help.”

“l went to the defense ministry and it was not simple. I had and have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but I didn’t ask for PTSD support from the defense ministry because I saw the harsh process and bureaucracy others were going through fighting the ministry to be accepted and thought ‘I will get even more PTSD if I try,” he stated.

Dahan stated that there are IDF veterans who were injured much worse than him who fight with the ministry on a daily basis, including employing lawyers, for their rights, and he thought enduring that would not be healthy for him – and yet he clearly needed PTSD treatment.   

“Finally, I met a guy named Or’el who brought me to the organization [Belev Echad]. They were kind to disabled IDF veterans and two months later they surprised me and flew me to New York. That was the first time I understood how much Jews there appreciate us. After five years of either serving in the IDF or being a disabled veteran. I felt appreciation, love, joy and a huge hug from the group.”

Further, he said, they are “good people, friends, they pamper us with the budgets they build, and they  say ‘thank you’. This is what every combat fighter needs, and for sure for someone who was wounded.”

Earlier in September, Belev Echad hosted a large gathering of IDF veterans with PTSD who it has worked with at the Ramot Resort in the Golan Heights for an extended weekend, which the Jerusalem Post joined in for. It also holds various other regular events, training, psychological consultations, and other support groups.

In addition, Belev Echad is known not just for some of the classic kinds of PTSD therapies, but also for strategically utilizing animal therapy.

Dahan noted that Belev Echad “brought me a dog. I have a constant friend now. They assist with dog training. It’s incredible. I could spend days speaking about the group.” He briefly showed off his dog to the Post and their close connection and the support he felt from having the dog was immediately obvious.

Questioned about some of the “roast”-style jokes that some of the Belev Echad members made at a barbecue and talent show during the Ramot Resort weekend, Dahan responded, “Everyone knows this is their home. Everyone understood all of the jokes. When you tell those kinds of jokes to close friends and family, it is embraced in an open atmosphere. Everyone enjoyed it.”

Today, Dahan has his own business called Eshet Metal, building iron and aluminum items for clients.

Women in combat: Raz Mizrahi

Though a majority of combat soldiers are still men, an increasing number are women and one woman who has benefitted from Belev Echad is Raz Mizrahi, 21.

During the May 2021 Gaza War, Mizrahi was sent with her unit to maintain calm in east Jerusalem. Tensions in east Jerusalem were very high due to the conflict in Gaza.

Stationed in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, she and her unit dispersed a protest that had deteriorated into public disorder. Next, they set up a checkpoint.

At one point, suddenly a terrorist drove a vehicle toward them at high speed and rammed into their position.

Mizrahi was trapped under the wheels of the car. As she lay there trapped, bleeding and in excruciating pain, drifting in and out of consciousness, Mizrahi heard IDF gunshots fired at the vehicle as well as the terrorist driver trying to open the door to escape.

She raised her leg to prevent the car door from opening and the terrorist from escaping, which ensured that her fellow border police could neutralize the terrorist. 

Next, she went through four months of difficult rehabilitation treatment.

Her whole body suffered from injuries, and she had to relearn to walk from scratch.

Additionally, following the attack, Mizrahi suffered from severe anxiety, with new fears of cars and a spike in nightmares.

Even crossing the street caused her anxiety.

She thought her life and all her plans were over.

But Mizrahi was a fighter, and with help from Belev Echad, she worked on herself physically and psychologically until she could return.

Once she returned, Mizrahi even trained to become an officer, ensuring that the terrorist did not destroy her dreams.

 Raz Mizrahi.  (credit: COURTESY OF BELEV ECHAD)
Raz Mizrahi. (credit: COURTESY OF BELEV ECHAD)

Founded in 2009 by Rabbi Uriel Vigler and his wife Shevy, Belev Echad started as a sponsored yearly tour to New York City for wounded IDF veterans to show solidarity and support.

Rabbi Vigler said, “We are thrilled to be able to host our beloved soldiers again for a weekend [at the Ramot Resort] of rejuvenation and transformation. We see firsthand how much these few days help them in their recovery.”

“The best therapy for our soldiers is to have each other, to connect, to talk, to bond and to share their experiences together. The bonds and connections that are forged between the soldiers during this weekend remain forever,” he said.

Vigler’s local initiative has emerged as a vibrant community that also serves as a close-knit extended family “to celebrate birthdays, marriages and births, provide resources and support through the big decisions, and show up when times are tough.”