As part of the five-day annual Golani Run from Israel’s northern tip to Eilat at the south, soldiers from the brown-bereted infantry regiment stopped over at the Loewenstein Hospital Rehabilitation Center to pay a visit to a wounded comrade-in-arms.
The soldiers met Neria Biderman, a soldier from Golani’s 51st Battalion, who was gravely wounded during Operation Cast Lead in early 2009 and has been in rehabilitation for the past six months.
The IDF website reports that Neria was injured in the head and arm from a mortar shell explosion on the first day of the ground assault into Gaza. He was evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva where he lay unconscious for a month and underwent two head operations.
After regaining consciousness, Neria was transferred to Loewenstein Hospital, where he underwent very successful rehabilitation and is now functioning almost normally, except for a partially disabled arm.
Neria and visitors. (Israel News photo: Bamachaneh / IDF website).
“How did you feel when you entered Gaza?” one of the soldiers asked Neria.
“We felt strong,” he answered. “You feel like you are omnipotent. There was never a feeling of ‘we won’t go in because we are afraid.’ People knew that we were stronger and more professional and they were not afraid. You should know, therefore, that the most important thing is not to compromise on being professional. Every one of you is a thousand times more professional than any terrorist you will encounter. They are not tough soldiers, they are not anything. If you trust your buddies, everything will be alright.”
Neria explained what he meant about the importance of being professional: “I got the mortar shell to the arm, and if the medic hadn’t carried out an arterial tourniquet properly, my life would be worthless. These are things that you are learning now and you do not understand how important they are, and how much effort you need to put into the small details.”
Golani troops before a march. (Israel news photo: Golani website).
When asked what helped him to recover from his grievous injuries he was emphatic: “Willpower. If you do not have that, you are stuck in one place. There are people without willpower who stay on a wheelchair and do not rehabilitate themselves. Willpower helps the most, and nothing else.”
Ayub Kayuf, the commander of the company that visited the hospital, explained that the visit is importance for both visitors and visited. “First of all, it does a lot for a person who was injured in the Regiment to see that the Regiment has not forgotten him,” he said. “And the fact that the soldiers see that the regiment has adopted the wounded person and sees [him as] part of the family – that is very important [too].”
Kayuf said it is important to know Loewenstein Hospital, too. “You understand how you can start off a day normally and what can happen to you one second later. That is important for combat activity and also for daily life. Even when they go home and get behind the wheel. And in general, it gives you proportions about life.”