Kfir soldiers
Kfir soldiersBelev Echad

Five minutes of physical combat between a soldier from the IDF’s Kfir unit and a terrorist who ambushed him ended with a resounding knockout. In the course of last year’s Operation Guardian of the Walls which began in May 2021 in response to hundreds of missiles fired by terror organization in Gaza at Israeli civilians, Israel Defense Forces launched a counterattack, striking over 1,500 terror targets, including launch sites, command and control centers, and weapons storage sites. Among these targets, the IDF struck many kilometers of Hamas’ extensive tunnel system which enabled military training, mobility, storage of weaponry and the capacity to carry out and manage terror and military operations without exposing terror organizations operatives.

While standing at a bus stop, Sergeant Yossi Amar, 21, very nearly became a victim of death and weapon-theft, yet his quick thinking and childhood training in mixed martial arts (MMA) helped him overcome the terrorist. Yossi has begun sharing his amazing story in New York where he’s visiting as a delegation member of Belev Echad, an organization that supports and assists WIA (wounded-in-action) IDF veterans rehabilitate from the physical and emotional trauma of war and terror. He’s further exploiting his extensive experience in martial arts training to teach young people in New York self-defense techniques so they’ll know how to react to anti-Semitic and hate crime attacks which are, unfortunately, becoming more common than ever on the streets of New York.

Daniel G., a Manhattan college student shares: “Close combat is an important tool that can save lives. I want to thank Belev Echad for giving us this opportunity to learn excellent techniques from Yossi Amar, and to hear his inspirational story.”

Yossi’s story happened just a little over a year ago, near the Nabi Musa IDF Training Base which is located south of Jerusalem, toward the Dead Sea. Sergeant Yossi Amar of the Nachshon Brigade, who was training in the southern region area of Highway 90 (Bik’ah Highway), was waiting alone at a bus stop in a relatively secluded area, eager to return home after several grueling weeks in training. Suddenly, a 30-some year old Palestinian terrorist, who was driving out of Hizma, a Palestinian town in the Jerusalem Governorate, spied the Israeli soldier standing alone at the bus stop. The terrorist slowed and parked his car nearby and began walking, unseen by Amar, toward the bus stop.

“I was standing at the bus stop, with my weapon strapped to me, looking the other direction, so I didn’t even see him coming,” Yossi recounts his chilling tale. “He appeared out of nowhere, spraying pepper spray right into my eyes. It took me a second to realize what was happening, but then I realized that I was under attack and that the terrorist was trying to wrestle my gun out of my grasp. I couldn’t see a thing, but suddenly, I was fighting for my life! The magazine, fell and broke in the course of our fight, and I dropped my phone too, so I couldn’t even call for help. At some point, I began moving with him away from the bus stop toward the street, pressing him tightly against my body. Then, in a sudden quick circular motion, I got him down on the floor with my arm and began choking him with my stronger hand until he passed out. Simultaneously, I punched him on the side, but he was out for the kill, and he didn’t give up.

“Summoning all his energy, he reacted with a powerful fist of his own. I tried reaching for my magazine, but it was useless. It had skidded away, and it was broken. In the meanwhile, the terrorist scrambled to his feet and began retreating, running toward the sand dunes, but this time, I didn’t give up either. I couldn’t see much, and I’d sustained some serious blows, but I ran after him because I didn’t know what he had in store.

“It took me about two minutes to catch up with him. I pounced on him from behind, and the battle resumed. This time, I used the training that I’d received in IDF combat training, and I hit him on his upper body with the handle and barrel of the rifle. The trouble was that I could barely see, so I kept missing, and the terrorist tried exploiting my weakness to grab my M-16 rifle. I knew that if he reached the gun, it would end in massive disaster—because not far from where I’d been waiting was a much larger bus stop that’s always full with civilians.

“I couldn’t afford to let him win—not just because my life was at stake, but because the lives of so many civilians were also at stake, so I just continued hitting him blindly on the back and head. My eyes were on fire; I could barely see a thing, and I didn’t know how much longer I would last. But then, miraculously, a border patrol officer passed by, saw what was going on, and helped me neutralize and handcuff the terrorist. Ultimately, I ended the incident with a head injury, light wounds, bruises and scratches on my face. My shirt and tzitzit were covered with blood, and several of my fingers were dislocated. The terrorist was a bit worse off, with a broken jaw.”

In the course of the physical combat, Amar also made use of a rock that he found in hand’s reach to neutralize the terrorist. Both Amar and the terrorist were evacuated to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital for medical treatment. Two days later, Amar was released and was already back with his unit.

“During this incident, I culled from MMA training that I’d started back as a teen athlete. The terrorist was well-built and clearly trained in combat, as well, but thankfully, I survived.”

Amar expresses how meaningful the Belev Echad trip has been for him. “After the incident, even though I went right back to life, I went through a rough patch. The Belev Echad trip changed my life. This is my first time in New York, and it’s given me an opportunity to meet other soldiers and veterans who’ve suffered terror and injuries like me. Meeting the supportive members of the Jewish community in New York has been awesome experience. They’ve showered us with support and love that give us all strength to continue rehabilitating physically and emotionally. I’d heard a lot about Belev Echad and how much they help soldiers who’ve been through hard times, but until I saw and experienced it myself, I didn’t know what it meant. My head injury resulted in partial memory loss, and I’m going through intense rehab now to restore what I’ve lost. Part of this rehab is benefiting from all this warmth and love and being able to share my story and teach others the self-defense techniques that saved my life.”

Or Porat, who led the delegation to New York shares: “I served in Duvdevan Unit, and I was injured in October 2016 in the course of a military operation. We were on a mission to nab a terrorist who was about to commit a major terror act in Jerusalem, and he threw a bomb at us that exploded right on my foot. I was severely wounded, and now, six years later, I’m still in rehab with shards in my leg.

“I first discovered Belev Echad in 2017, and this year, I’m leading a delegation of incredible men and women on a life-changing mission to New York, similar to the one that changed my own life five years ago.”

In the 12 years since its inception, Belev Echad has grown into an international initiative dedicated to easing the transition of WIA soldiers back into mainstream society and the workforce. Through a well-designed support system that empowers each veteran and builds on his or her skills and hobbies, the organization adopts each wounded soldier individually and assumes the roles of mentor, advocate and friend, guiding him or her through critical medical, educational and professional decisions and celebrating life’s milestones, big and small.

Rabbi Uriel Vigler, co-founder and director of Belev Echad, shared: “The soldiers who join us on this mission are warmly embraced by the Jewish community here in New York, and it’s a major contributing factor to their recovery. Yossi’s incredible story is teaching young people here in New York that MMA can save lives, and I hope that the course he’s teaching will empower them with skills and tools to defend themselves, shall the need ever arise.”