Aharon Karov
Aharon KarovFlash 90

Lt. (res.) Aharon Karov was considered to be the most badly wounded casualty of Operation Cast Lead, waged against Hamas in 2008-9. He suffered severe facial injuries and brain damage.

During the counter-terror operation in Gaza, Karov – now 28 – was a Hesder Yeshiva student and a young officer in the Paratroopers. In the course of the operation, he married – and returned to his soldiers on the morning after the wedding. Two weeks later, the force under his command entered a boobytrapped house on the outskirts of Gaza.

An explosive device went off, Karov was badly injured, and his chances of recovering were deemed to be very slim.

Karov received initial care on the ground and was flown to Beilinson Hospital, then transferred to the Head Injury Ward at Tel Hashomer Hospital. A large shell fragment had entered his brain from one side of the head and was lodged inside it. The fragment struck numerous regions of the brain, including those affecting speech. His face was crushed, from the upper skull to the eye cavities, through the sinuses, to the mouth and teeth. He could not speak or move a limb.

But his progress was fast and dramatic. He regained consciousness after three days for the first time, but was still anesthetized for some time afterward. Six days after the injury he was breathing on his own. After two weeks, he began to walk, and after less than a month he was already whispering some words.

After five months in the hospital, Karov was released and began a long rehabilitation process. He and his wife now have three children. He lives in Ariel, Samaria, where he also studies, and he lectures in the military and in schools about Zionism and about coping with difficulties.

According to Yediot Aharonot, he has been trying to go back to military service for a long time, too. At first he tried to go back to the Paratroopers, but because of his severe brain injury they did not want to take any chances, and refused. He has now found the way to join another highly respected unit, as a reservist. His regimental commander in the war, Major General Herzi Halevy, now Head of Military Intelligence, helped him do this.

"This teaches us that one must not despair,” Karov's father, Rabi Ze'ev Karov, told the newspaper. “When a person believes in himself he can reach places that appear like delusions, and seem impossible. As a nation and as private individuals, we must believe in our abilities.”