'He said that if anything happened to him, I should continue on'

Severely injured soldier's wife explains why she divorced him.

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Rivka and Yehuda Hayisraeli
Rivka and Yehuda Hayisraeli
Courtesy of the family

Rivka Hayisraeli spoke to Yediot Ahronot about her decision to divorce her husband Yehuda, after over two years of hoping and praying for his recovery.

Yehuda Hayisraeli suffered a severe head injury during 2014's Operation Protective Edge and remained in a coma for over a year. The couple's second child, a son, was circumcised in Be'er Sheva's Soroka Hospital, outside his father's hospital room.

"The first time Yehuda spoke [two years ago], it was to his yeshiva's dean," Rivka said. "The dean paid a visit and asked, 'Yehuda, how are you?' and Yehuda responded, 'I'm fine.' We were shocked. The dean said, 'Yehuda, did you just talk?' and Yehuda said, 'Yeah.'"

"The family was so optimistic and hopeful," Rivka related. "Yehuda began to communicate, and he started to improve.... But he wasn't my Yehuda, the Yehuda I know. If he's conscious, why didn't he return to who he had been? But I understood that it didn't depend on me, that it was a result of his injury."

"I feel like I chose life," she told Yediot Ahronot. "I chose not to remain in a sad place, where I was simply surviving.... I chose to give my children a normal life in an abnormal reality."

Though the couple never contemplated what would happen should if Yehuda was severely injured during his army service, they did speak about what would happen if he died.

"Yehuda told me that if something happened to him, I should continue on with my life," Rivka said. "I remember telling him, 'I have such a perfect husband at home, I don't think I'd be able to bring another man into my home after you.'"

Though Rivka spent the first year after Yehuda's injury at her husband's bedside, most of the second year was spent focusing on her children.

"I felt like it was their turn," she said. "There were days I didn't go to visit Yehuda in the evening, and I felt bad about it and went later that night."

At some point Rivka realized that she could not build her life on "what if" Yehuda returned to full functioning, and decided to divorce.

"You don't make decisions based on what will be," she explained, adding that she wasn't happy after she received the divorce, since "it was a compromise, even if she had made peace with it."

"Yehuda still exists. He's still the children's father, and he was and will be part of our future."

"No one understood why I wrote my Facebook post. They didn't understand that my story is well known, and that the divorce would have been publicized anyways. If I hadn't brought my side, everyone would have assumed what they wanted to."

Rivka currently works as an occupational therapist in Tel Hashomer Hospital. She does not know what the future holds, but "after three years of pain and difficulties" she wants to go back to "simply having a happy life."

Yehuda is currently living with his parents and undergoing intensive rehabilitation. The children visit their father at his parents' home, which has been renovated to accommodate Yehuda's disabilities.

Yehuda led the Jerusalem Marathon this year in his wheelchair. Ordinary Israelis raised over a million shekels to help renovate his home to be handicapped accessible when the government refused to do so because it was over the Green Line.