To be a part of the IDF disabled veterans

“Dad, it’s me, I am injured but I am alive.”

An IDF soldier (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An IDF soldier
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In the split second that it took for the Kornet missile to shoot past me, my life did not flash before my eyes, and I did not think about lofty ideas such as dying on behalf of my country nor did I even think about my family. The only thing that crossed my mind was, “oh shit!”
An hour before this incident, we had been busy rescuing our wounded from a tank that had been hit under heavy bombardment. I will never forget the screams and the look on the face of the tank commander as we evacuated him from the tank onto the stretcher. It was 6:30 a.m. and we were in the middle of finding cover when suddenly we were attacked, caught in an ambush by Hezbollah guerrilla fighters.
I was very lucky, the missile they shot at us missed me by only a few centimeters, but the missile’s impact on the wall behind me was so intense and I was injured very badly everywhere throughout my body; and I lost my leg. Just a few minutes earlier, I had been part of the rescue team and now I was the injured in need of being evacuated. I lost a lot of blood, around me there was heavy fighting, and all I could think about was my mother, and what am I going to say to her?
I was completely conscious as I was evacuated onto the stretcher, and as they put my severed leg next to me on the stretcher. I was conscious all the while they took care of me in an abandoned house that was under fire, and as the reservist doctor who was with us yelled out on his transceiver, “If we don’t get him evacuated right now there will be no one to evacuate this evening!” The helicopter arrived like an angel coming down from heaven.
When I arrived at the hospital in Nahariya, I spoke with my father. I managed to say, “Dad, it’s me, I am injured but I am alive,” and then I lost consciousness.
That fateful moment at Bint Jbeil gave me a new identity as a disabled IDF veteran. I did not choose this new badge of honor nor did I want it. I was simply a 21-year-old Arab Israeli boy from Nazareth, I volunteered to fight in the Golani brigades, and like many of my compatriots serving in the army, I, too, dreamed of my big after-the-army trek abroad in just a few months’ time. But then everything changed.
TO BE A part of the IDF disabled veterans is to be part of a larger family of tens of thousands of people in this country, people who are truly salt of the earth. We are a large family in which one’s religion, background and political views are completely irrelevant. People for whom the country is above all else and they have given themselves, in the full sense of the meaning.
But it is also a group of people, who, in their early twenties have to get accustomed to a totally new way of living, a new reality. One moment we were fighting in Lebanon and the next we are fighting to relearn how to walk. The injury didn’t just leave us with bodily scars. It left us with emotional ones as well, and from my experience, the emotional ones outweigh the physical. A mere slamming of a door makes me anxious, every night as I close my eyes I experience the traumatic moment of the injury once again, what others term post-trauma is what we call life.
However, being an IDF veteran is also to be one of the lucky ones because you could have easily been one of the dead, that same group of friends who fought beside you and did not make it back home. The same question always haunts me: why am I here and they not? Why did I make it and they did not? What is left from those days aside from memories, pain and one small country?
Today is the Day of Recognition of Israel’s Disabled and Victims of Terror. It is not a sad day like Memorial Day because we are alive, but it is also not a happy day, because we were injured.
But today is an opportunity to stop for a moment and take a step back from the crazy reality of our country and be united. This day was chosen because of the Hebrew date of the establishment of the State of Israel, in the end, the country belongs to all of us and we are all a part of it, and we have paid a very heavy price for it and we continue to pay a heavy price for it. Even if we do not all agree on the path, we all agree on the final analysis: we have no other country. Let us put aside our differences and be together, unified, at least for today.
The author, age 33, is an Arab Israeli. A resident of Nazareth, he was injured in the Second Lebanese War while serving as a soldier in the Israeli army. A social activist in the Arab community, he is the CEO of the nonprofit organization “Together – Vouch For Each Other,” which builds bridges that bring together Arabs and Jews in meaningful social connections in Israeli society.