IDF Wounded Tour America
Friday June 21, 2002 was an ordinary day for Kfir Levy. At 05:00 Levy, a sniper in the Givati brigade, ascended to his post, a battalion guard post on the roof of a building in Netzarim. A few minutes later he suffered a direct hit to the head with an RPG losing one eye, the hearing in both ears, his lower lip, and most of his teeth. Levy suffers from paralysis of the right leg and both hands.
Levi, who is considered "very seriously injured" by the IDF, is representative of hundreds of disabled soldiers who risked their lives on the battlefield to defend the Jewish homeland. These wounded soldiers heal and recover, but adjusting to their new reality can be painful. They live on government battle subsidies, often forgotten by a busy media.
For the second time this year a group of disabled soldiers wounded during their service in Gaza, Lebanon, and assorted terror attacks landed in New York for a ten day journey across the eastern seaboard of the United States. The disabled IDF veterans trip is a part of the One Heart venture, which is financed by Rabbi Uriel Vigler, who manages the Chabad Center for Israelis in Manhattan's Upper East Side, in collaboration with Rabbi Menachem Kutner's Chabad for Victims of Terror organization.
"These soldiers gave us more than we can ever give them," Rabbi Vigler said, noting the Chabad Center for Israelis that raised $ 100,000 to cover the expenses of the ten days of the journey. "We do everything to make them smile, give them a reason to feel a little happiness. "
"The idea is to give back to those soldiers who gave us so much, a chance to forget about the routine agenda of pain treatments," said Rabbi Kutner, who personally gets to know the soldiers and accompanies them on their outings.
During the trip the soldiers visited major tourist sites in New York and attended a reception hosted by Israel's UN ambassador at the Israeli consulate in New York. After New York the soldiers visited Washington DC where they saw Capitol Hill, the Holocaust Museum, the Aviation Museum, and visited the Israeli Embassy.
Returning to New York from their journey the soldiers celebrated the Sabbath with more than 1,000 Jews in Manhattan. Then, Sunday after the Yankees game, the soldiers joined together with hundreds of Jewish young people cruise on the Hudson River.
A farewell event held last Tuesday of the soldiers. Amichai Mumberam, one of the soldiers, told attendees, "In Israel we are treated like everyone else. We are used to the fact that we are wounded for life. Here in New York you give us a special feeling - we understand that people care about us - and for us it means everything. "
Photos courtesy Bentzi Sasson