Asael Shabo with Maagalim participants
Asael Shabo with Maagalim participants Israel news photo: Yedidya Kellerman

Terrorism survivor Asael Shabo spoke to the media this week as he prepared for a match against football (soccer) star Lionel Messi and the Barcelona team. Shabo will play as part of a group of Israeli and Palestinian Authority Arab athletes.

Eleven years ago, Asael’s home in Itamar was the scene of a massacre. PA terrorists broke into the home and shot and murdered his mother and three of his brothers, and badly wounded Asael.

“I remember that my three brothers were murdered in the room with me. The terrorist stood in the doorway and began to shoot. I remember that my mother was shot on the stairs,” he told Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio).

Asael was hit by three bullets. He survived by playing dead despite his injuries, even when the terrorist kicked him in the head. The terrorist also threw a grenade into the room to ensure the young brothers were dead.

Asael, then 9, had his leg amputated after the attack.

“The attack is with me all the time,” he said. “It takes a long time to come to terms with the disaster. You can’t go back, so all that’s left is to look forward.”

“Personally, I was an introverted, closed-off child,” he continued. “I struggled to comprehend the disaster that had befallen me. I didn’t interact with the half a country that came to visit me.”

The attack on the Fogel family two years ago, in which parents Ehud and Ruti Fogel and three of their six children were murdered in their home in Itamar, brought Asael back to his own tragedy.

“You get flashbacks to ‘our disaster.’ The same scene, the same terror. It’s an insane feeling of déjà vu,” he explained.

“I understand what Tamar, who survived the attack, is going through. At times like that you look for quiet despite all the visits,” he added.

In the years after the attack Asael began swimming as a form of rehabilitation. He was recognized as a talented swimmer, and is now one of Israel’s foremost handicapped athletes.

In recent years he has played sports with a team of Israeli and Jerusalem Arab handicapped athletes. He sees playing sports alongside Arabs as a good opportunity to change the Arab perception of Israelis, he said.

Shabo said he is very disturbed by the realization that his family’s murderers could be released, just as Israel agreed this week to release terrorist murderers.

“I’m disturbed at thinking that some day those who were involved in killing my family will be set free. I empathize with the extreme suffering of the bereaved families at the murderers’ release,” he said.

“I don’t believe that there is any justification for releasing terrorists with blood on their hands, who murdered people in cold blood,” he declared.

Asael’s father Boaz expressed similar sentiments in 2011 as Israel freed over 1,000 terrorists in exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Boaz remarried several years after the terrorist attack that killed his wife and sons. In 2009, he and his wife Hila welcomed triplets. Earlier this year Avia Shabo, Asael’s sister, married the son of her father’s second wife.