Belev Echad is an international initiative dedicated to helping wounded IDF soldiers through a system of support that empowers each veteran to live a life without limits.
The organization adopts each wounded veteran and assumes the roles of mentor, advocate and friend, guiding them through critical medical, educational and professional decisions and celebrating life’s milestones big and small.
Belev Echad took a group of soldiers to a vacation in northern Israel. We met them to talk about their injuries and the mutual support they receive.
Yarin Ashkenazi spoke of the ramming attack in the Palestinian Arab town of Sinjil in which he was injured. This was the first ISIS attack in Israel. The terrorist drove towards Yarin at a speed of 120 km/h. Yarin was injured but was quick to fire at the vehicle, which caused the vehicle to overturn. The terrorist tried to continue the attack with an axe and was neutralized by the commander of Yarin's squad.
Raz Bibi told of the stabbing attack in which he was injured at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Raz was critically wounded but he fired at the terrorist before he lost consciousness, in order to prevent the terrorist from attacking Jewish families who were at the scene. Yahel Landau, a Border Police officer, was injured during an operational activity and was disabled for six months without any ability to move. Doron Akiva from the commando brigade spoke of an injury he suffered in the Qalandiya refugee camp, north of Jerusalem. He, too, was bedridden for six months.
All three discussed the significance the injury had to their psyche, the post-trauma that they went through after the attack and the stages of physical recovery. Raz Bibi spoke about flashbacks of the stabbing incident that he keeps experiencing, while Yahel emphasized that while a mental injury is not visible, it certainly exists and has an effect on the victim.
Sharon Shtrachman, co-director of Belev Echad, spoke about the organization’s center which serves many people on a daily basis. Co-director Raz Budani spoke about the daily activities of the organization and the feeling of satisfaction when the soldiers are brought together for a special friendship that is formed between them in a way that cannot happen with those who are not part of the difficult experience.
"I feel at home here with people who have experienced things similar to what I did," said Raz. Yarin noted that the connection created between the friends is special and comes on the basis of the common background.
"It feels like family. There are those who listen to you and see you and want to help you," said Yahel, and Doron concluded that the friends only need a wink or a nod to convey a message that only they understand from the same shared experience.
Belev Echad’s new center, located near Tel Hashomer Hospital, sees the soldiers arrive for treatments and daily assistance. Special emphasis is placed on martial arts training that brings the soldiers their sense of ability, self-confidence and belief in their ability to cope with injury.