Israel Prize laureate Ravitzky emerges from coma

Two months after traffic accident, writes list of his books from memory.

Israel Prize laureate Prof. Aviezer Ravitzky, who had been in a deep coma since being hit by an Egged bus as he crossed Jerusalem's Jaffa Road on October 16, has for the past two days read a newspaper and wrote an accurate list of all the books he has authored. The surprising recovery of the 61-year-old head of the Hebrew University's Jewish philosophy department thrilled relatives, friends and admirers in Israel and around the world. Ravitzky, the father of three girls and a boy aged 19 to 35, suffered such serious head trauma that physicians at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, where he was hospitalized for about a month, did not perform surgery. He was, however, weaned from his respirator, making him eligible for treatment at Beit Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital in Ra'anana. "As far as we know, there is no brain damage," said Ruthie Ravitzky, his wife, who has been with him night and day since the accident. "He is no longer unconscious, and we can see he has entered a positive process, with improvement every day. But he has a long way to go to be rehabilitated," she said. Ruthie Ravitzky said he greeted visitors with "Shabbat Shalom." "We don't know if he knows where he is. We didn't speak to him about the accident. It is fortunate that he suffered no bone fractures, as this will make rehabilitation easier. We hope he will be able to return to his work in the university," she said. "We've received endless calls. There are so many people who love him. We thank God, his doctors, and whoever prayed for him." Beit Loewenstein director Prof. Ya'acov Hart told The Jerusalem Post that he was overjoyed to see Ravitzky in a wheelchair in a corridor reading the newspaper. "He smiled and shook my hand when I introduced myself. He is very charming and pleasant and smart. Then he said, 'I am happy to see you.' "We received him in a deep coma. We gave him drugs that stimulate the brain and all kinds of physical and occupational therapy. We insisted that even though he was unconscious, he immediately be taken out of bed to sit in a chair. His wife took him around in a wheelchair." Hart said 80 percent of Beit Loewenstein patients with traumatic head injuries eventually regain consciousness. "We have 32 years' experience treating such patients. Prof. Ravitzky is not a rare case. He doesn't speak very well yet and there is still a very long way to go, but I am optimistic that he will progress. He will need lots of experts. Because his muscles have weakened due to lack of use, he will have to undergo intense physiotherapy." Hart predicted that Ravitzky would need to remain in the hospital for rehabilitation for several months, but that he would be able to go home for vacations. The accident occurred near the Jerusalem headquarters of Kupat Holim Meuhedet, down the road from the Central Bus Station. The Egged bus driver was detained for questioning and later released on NIS 4,000 bail. He was placed under house arrest for allegedly tampering with the black box recording device in the bus. There were conflicting reports as to whether Ravitzky crossed on the red or green light, but the spot is very dangerous. A year ago, Israel Radio's chief technician, Moshe Rosendorn, was killed by a bus as he crossed the road there. In 2001, Ravitzky was awarded the Israel Prize for his research in Jewish philosophy. A senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, he is the author of several books. including Messianism, Zionism and Jewish Religious Radicalism, History and Faith: Studies in Jewish Philosophy and, most recently, Religious and Secular Jews in Israel: A Kulturkampf?