The annual Gala Dinner benefiting Belev Echad took Monday tonight at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers, New York.
Based in the Big Apple and with branches in Israel, Belev Echad supports and assists WIA (wounded-in-action) IDF veterans and security forces in the process of rehabilitating from the physical and emotional trauma of war and terror.
This year’s event was attended by VIP celebrities from across the U.S. and featured Israeli TV stars of the Fauda and Tehran series. In the course of the evening, the guests were introduced to two young Israeli heroes who were mortally wounded during their IDF service yet surmounted the odds to return to life and give back to the community.
The dinner, aptly called “Our Soldiers-Our Heroes” spotlighted the story of Raz Mizrachi, who in May 2021, at the height of the Guardian of the Walls military operation, was deployed to East Jerusalem where tensions were reaching a hilt. Suddenly, a car came barreling toward her company, plowing directly into six police officers and soldiers, and running them over with intent to kill. Mizrachi was badly injured in the attack and spent the next 4 months in intensive rehab.
“From a talented athlete who could run ten miles without losing my breath, I needed to learn how to walk again. Ten steps with excruciating pain was an accomplishment,” she shares. Aside from the physical rehabilitation, Mizrachi also required intensive emotional therapy and psychiatric intervention to recuperate emotionally from the fear, anxiety and depression that followed her near-death experience.
Former IDF soldier, Eli Chazzan has a similar story to share: Chazzan was seriously wounded in a terror attack in Hadera last March: “Not long ago, I was hanging between life and death, my body riddled with bullets in the wake of a terror attack. Now I’m standing here before you all and feeling the embrace of New York’s Jewish community.”
“Belev Echad’s mission,” Belev Echad cofounder and director Rabbi Uriel Vigler shares, “is to give these young heroes opportunities, support and power to advance in life, to develop their skills and talents, and help them build successful careers, no matter what they choose. We sponsor IDF veterans as they further their education and then support them through the process of finding jobs, and we’ve witnessed incredible results—true miracles.”
“It was deeply rewarding to see the wonderful Jewish New Yorkers coming out tonight to embrace our wounded veterans. Their support gives us the strength we need to expand our endeavors, stay committed to saving our soldiers’ futures, and build a community of kindness for wounded IDF veterans and their families,” expresses Shevy Vigler, Uriel’s wife and cofounder of Belev Echad. These courageous young men and women risked their lives for Israel and the Jewish people, and ultimately endured lifelong injuries and grief. “It’s a very long and lonely fight to overcome catastrophic injuries, and our work with these wounded veterans proves our solidarity and gratitude for their enormous sacrifice,” she concludes.
Bentzy Sassoon, who escorts the Belev Echad delegation across their U.S. campus tours shared: “It was incredible to see the outpouring of love from America’s Jews to our Israeli soldiers. Over one thousand men and women from across the spectrum united together for an awesome, empowering event that salutes and embraces the outstanding young men and women who sacrificed so much for their country and people."