Two Extraordinary Stories


מהנייד 133.jpgAvichai served in the Golani Brigade during Operation Cast Lead. His battalion was charged with finding secret tunnels in Gaza used by the Palestinians for transporting weapons and explosives.

When Avichai and his buddy Oren left their jeep, he realized Oren had left behind his bulletproof vest. He grabbed it and gave it to him. Liter­ally within seconds, a rocket landed very close to them. Both were badly injured, but Oren was alive because of Avichai’s quick thinking.

Then, within just a few moments, it was Oren’s turn to save Avichai. A terrorist approached them firing a Kalashnikov. Oren managed to shoot him and save both himself and Avichai.

This is an extraordinary story of courage and friendship. But what happened on our CTVP trip for the soldiers demonstrates clearly the harrowing long-term trauma that these soldiers live with daily.

During the L.A. portion of the trip, we went to Disneyland. Their slogan is “The Happiest Place in the World” and we hoped to give our soldiers a wonderful experience.

The first stop was the aquarium. Part of the show included the use of fire and explosives. Suddenly we saw Avichai running in panic from the show. We immediately ran after him and found him shivering and frightened. The explosion during the show caused him to experience flashbacks to his time in Gaza, a reminder of how much these young people undergo and how difficult their recovery truly can be.


מהנייד 117.jpgDudi’s experience was every bit as harrowing. He was in the Border Police. They’d received a warning of an imminent suicide bombing targeting central Jerusalem. He and two fellow soldiers were patrolling the northern boundary of the city when they saw an Arab walking toward them pushing a baby carriage.

It turned out that there was no baby in the carriage, rather a large parcel. At just the moment the soldiers realized this was a terrorist, he detonated the bag in a tremen­dous explosion. Flying shrapnel struck the right side of Dudi’s brain causing total paralysis of his left side. He was unconscious for a month and since has undergone three lifesaving brain surgeries and continues to have treatments three days a week.

As if all this were not enough, in addition to the paralysis, Dudi developed epilepsy and struggles to control this even with medication. His speech and walking are both slow but he is determined and uses a cane to get around, although he needs a wheelchair for long excursions.

Each soldier on our trip has an equally moving story. Each soldier took from thistrip courage and hope knowing how very much they are respected and loved by theJewish people worldwide.