Op-Ed: A Hero Named Asael
Everyone in Israel should remember what happened to the Shabos of Itamar, a loving Jewish family destroyed in a minute in 2002.
The Palestinian terrorist first shot the mother, Rachel, in the back. Then he shot Zvi, 13, and Avishai, 5, also in the back. After that, Neria, 16, was also shot dead.
Their father, Boaz, was in another house in Itamar, and in the distance saw his own home burning until it was completely devastated.
Ten years after the attack, one of the survivors, Asael Shabo, is training for the 2016 Para Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is Israel’s national champion for the 50-meter freestyle and a member of the national wheelchair basketball team – and coaches kids in both sports.
Shabo was shot in the leg and watched his brothers die. He laid motionless on the ground. “The terrorist kicked me in the head to see if I was alive but I kept my eyes closed”, Shabo said. “But then I heard the terrorist go upstairs where my mom was and I heard her scream”.
Asael is a modern-day Jewish hero, one whose valor shines brightly for the entire world to see.
In Israel there are the maimed military heroes. Some have no legs. Others have no arms. Some are blind. Others suffer from terrible burns. Many have been tortured.
Today they work in banana fields and teach at universities. They are architects, writers, lawyers, artists, members of Knesset. They were pilots, paratroopers, artillery officers and jeep drivers.
Most of Israel’s 24 Paralympians incurred their disabilities while serving in the IDF. But the military survivors are very common also in the United States.
In Israel, most moving are the civilian survivors of terror attacks. This is the true face of the war against the Jewish people on the home front: Jews scathed and scarred, living reminders of the Israeli path for survival. They are a microcosm of the unfailing spirit so many in the world associate with being Israeli.
The Second Intifada produced 17,000 wounded, a figure which extrapolated to the population of the United States would be the equivalent of some 664,133 injured. For all those killed, there are many, many more left alive but burned, scarred, blinded, hearing-impaired, or missing limbs. Many sustain fractures, vascular injuries, paralysis, or brain damage.
Asael Shabo lost his leg in the killing spree, but he just accomplished a dream by joining Israel’s wheelchair basketball team. The group Tikvot, a charity in Israel that aids terror victims and injured soldiers, has helped Shabo recover, by building his self confidence.
Such people epitomize courage and determination, faith and resistance. They are the most important, unknown and often forgotten heroes of Israel.
I remember a security guard at the Kiryat Hayovel supermarket who nearly lost his legs; an Australian-born policeman who lost a leg in Neveh Ya’acov; a girl with shrapnel lodged in her brain from the double bombing at the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall; a boy who lost his eyesight at Haifa’s Maxim restaurant.
At the Dolphinarium site, where a suicide bomber claimed the lives of 21 teenagers, there is a sign, taken from the Psalms, which says “We won’t stop dancing”.
The images purveyed to the global public opinion by the Palestinian propaganda are images of Israeli “occupation forces” embittering the lives of the victimized Palestinians.
People like Asael Shabo never found their name mentioned in the Western newspapers, because if 9/11 is now an emblem of evil remembered worldwide, Israel’s suffering has been deliberately forgotten. It’s as if the Israeli victims never existed.
The 9/11 killers didn’t plan specifically how to inflict further pain to the survivors. In Israel, pieces of metal were added to the explosives in the terrorist’s vest or backpack, with blasts often severing limbs completely.
Many Israeli children have had their faces burned or their hands rendered useless; some have had their sight ruined forever.
And not everyone can recover, although many are so brave.There are trembling elderly people, totally dependent. There are people who go insane and don’t want to live anymore because they are haunted by the sound of the explosion, secluding themselves in their homes. Naturally, the focus has been mainly on the people killed in terror attacks, but more than eight times as many have been wounded.
These maimed heroes remember that in Israel too many parents buried their children, too many victims are still in a coma, and too much blood was spilled. One has no words to comfort the families who have lost loved ones. Or the innocent people who were wounded, who remain traumatized, who continue to undergo therapy, who live their lives wheelchair-bound.
We can offer only our love and concern, our prayers and practical help.
But we know that the spirit of the Jewish people and life itself inevitably triumphs over cackling, hate-filled mothers who pathetically send their own children out to murder Jews and die.
Israel and the Jewish people will live. The country of heroes like Asael Shabo will survive.