Don’t leave a hero behind - Israeli requests help with medical costs

The family of Niv Nehemia, the Israeli hero severely wounded in a 2017 knife attack in a Yavne supermarket, appeals for assistance with medical expenses.

NIV NEHEMIA with wife Sigal and their five children.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
NIV NEHEMIA with wife Sigal and their five children.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For Niv Nehemia, assistant manager at the Yavne branch of the Shufersal grocery store, Wednesday, August 10, 2017, began like most days. Arriving at the store at 6 a.m. from his home in Kiryat Ekron, Nehemia was busy organizing stock on the store shelves. Shortly after 11 a.m., Ismail Abu Aram, a 19-year old resident of Yatta, an Arab town near Hebron, who had entered Israel illegally, arrived at the store and asked Niv for the location of the men’s room.
Niv directed him. A few minutes later, Aram reappeared with a knife that he had taken from the store and brutally attacked Nehemia from behind. Niv, with no means of self-defense other than his bare hands, fended off his attacker’s blows and even succeeded in knocking the knife out of the assailant’s hand. The supermarket’s security camera videos of the attack are still readily available online, and show both the ferocity of the attack, and Niv’s presence of mind and swift reflexes in defending himself and the others who were in the store that morning.
“Niv says that God gave him the courage to fight back against the terrorist,” says Niv’s wife, Sigal. The terrorist ran from the store, was apprehended shortly thereafter by the store’s security guard, and was handed over to the police. Niv’s heroic actions saved both store employees and shoppers, but he was gravely wounded, with 14 stab wounds in his head, chest, hands and neck, including a cut in his esophagus.
Niv was taken to Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot in critical condition and underwent several rounds of emergency surgery before being discharged from the hospital three and a half weeks later. Acclaimed by the public and media as a hero whose determination and quick thinking prevented the murder of many Israelis, Niv survived, and has undergone a grueling rehabilitative process since the attack.
Now, some two and a half years later, he still suffers the mental and physical aftereffects of the violence. Niv today works in Shufersal’s offices on a part-time basis, but remains in great pain. He also has difficulty speaking, because the attacker cut his vocal cords, paralyzing one of them.
Niv grew up on Moshav Taoz, northwest of Beit Shemesh. The majority of the moshav’s residents, including Niv’s parents, came from Cochin, India. In 2000, Niv married Sigal, whose parents hailed from the Indian metropolis of Mumbai. Together, the couple have five children, ranging in age from 18 to four and a half.
Niv had been working at Shufersal for three years at the time of the attack. Sigal clearly recalls that fateful August morning.
“My brother called me at 12:30, when I was at work, and told me that Niv had been involved in an incident at work, and that I should come to the hospital. He didn’t tell me that he had been injured in a terror attack.”
Sigal’s boss drove her to the hospital, and while in the car, Sigal glanced at her cellphone, read about the attack, and realized that the victim was Niv.
Since the attack, Niv has undergone six surgeries, and has another surgery scheduled in three months. He walks slowly and deliberately using crutches, and has great difficulty using his left foot.
“Niv is in pain 24 hours per day,” says Sigal. “He doesn’t sleep well at night, and he takes medical cannabis.”
THE ATTACK has left scars on the family as well.
“The day of the attack, the children saw the video on the Internet before I was able to tell them what happened,” says Sigal. “They were in shock, and couldn’t believe what had occurred.”
She adds that Evyatar, the couple’s seven-year-old son, is afraid to sleep at night.
“He comes to us every night, and doesn’t want to sleep in his bed. He is afraid that a terrorist will enter the house. He still has trauma.”
All of the children have received psychological counseling for the trauma caused by the attack on their father.
“It is still difficult for them,” Sigal said. In addition, Niv and Sigal’s youngest son, Ophir, suffers from Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare and complex genetic condition that affects many parts of the body, producing weak muscles, poor feeding and slow development.
The effects on the family, though, have been more than psychological; they are financial as well. Sigal explains that Niv requires weekly sessions of physical therapy, speech therapy, hydrotherapy and psychological counseling. Kupat Holim has authorized only 12 treatments per year for rehabilitation, and the National Insurance Institute has authorized payment for just some of his treatments.
As a result, the family has had to pay privately for much of Niv’s rehabilitation.
“With five children, it is a difficult situation,” says Sigal. She points out that Niv’s pension from Bituah Leumi is far less than the amount that he used to receive for his regular salary. As a result, the family is having difficulty covering monthly expenses, and is running a shortfall of between NIS 5,000 and NIS 6,000 each month. Sigal works half days as a secretary, and Niv cannot work more than four hours per day because of his injuries. The family lives in a third-floor apartment in Kiryat Ekron that does not have an elevator. Niv must climb and descend 40 stairs each day, which causes him great pain.
“We hope that we will be able to sell the apartment and move to a house that is more suited to his special needs,” says Sigal. In the coming months, Niv will also require hip replacement surgery, additional surgery on his vocal cords, and extensive rehabilitation following surgery. Sigal says it is doubtful that Niv will regain full use of his vocal cords.
In order to pay for Niv’s extensive medical expenses, the family has established a fund-raising page on Jgive.com, titled “Leave No Heroes Behind.” Sigal explains that the purpose of the campaign is to support all of Niv’s medical expenses, which have so far reached NIS 800,000, and to cover their family’s financial deficit.
Sigal is grateful for the help extended by Shufersal, which has enabled Niv to continue to work on a part-time basis, and says the family has received occasional outside assistance that has helped them make it through these tough times. Nevertheless, the family’s financial situation is precarious.
“We want people to open their hearts and give, to help Niv, the hero, and help rehabilitate him and his family. Niv saved many people, and he fought the terrorist alone.”
Niv Nehemia is one of Israel’s quiet heroes who confronted a brutal terrorist, using nothing but his bare hands, and survived. He is on the road to recovery, but needs help and support to complete his rehabilitation. He and his family are walking a difficult and painful path. With the help of the public, we can smooth the road forward.  
Donations for Niv’s recovery can be sent online at
www.jgive.com/new/en/ils/donation-targets/24591.


Tags violence