“They look after you at Beit Halochem, and they ask for nothing in return.”

It was a tense, highly stressful afternoon during Operation Cast Lead – the war in Gaza.

In January 2009, Izzy Ezagui and 7 soldiers in the Haruv Kfir unit of the Israel Defense Forces were anxiously waiting in a tent by the Gaza border.

Izzy Ezagui and his father in hospital.

Izzy Ezagui and his father in hospital.

They had just gotten word that other members of their unit in Gaza had sustained grave injuries and the commanding officer had been killed. Izzy’s unit was preparing to go in and provide reinforcements.

They never made it.

Ten minutes before their departure, rockets slammed into their tent. Izzy and three fellow soldiers were seriously wounded.

When the smoke cleared, Izzy saw that part of his arm was missing and that he was bleeding profusely. Sustained by unbelievable inner strength, he walked to the nearest bomb shelter where the medics began treating him. He was transferred by ambulance and helicopter to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva.

Despite losing 40% of his blood, Izzy remained awake and lucid. Minutes before he was rushed into surgery, Izzy insisted on calling his mother. He needed to hear her voice and reassure her that he would survive. Izzy underwent 2 major surgeries in 2 days with courage and stoicism that defy all odds.

Izzy was discharged from the army with honour. Today he wants to volunteer for a second tour of duty as a combat officer.

“I feel that after my injury, I can do even more than before. I feel I will help boost the morale of others.”

He is an exceptional young man who made Aliyah to Israel from the USA at 19 years old. Izzy entered the army, was gravely wounded, and now wants nothing more than to go back and serve Israel again with all his heart.

“I believe in the nation of Israel and our history. I feel honoured to be able to participate in protecting Israel.”

All of us can take tremendous pride in the courage, valour and commitment of this dedicated young man.

While recuperating, Izzy and other wounded soldiers were taken to our Tel Aviv Beit Halochem Centre, where they met with several disabled members.

Specialized therapies, sports and cultural programs along with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities impressed Izzy and his friends. It comforted him to know that there was a “home” he could go to daily, a place that would help him rehabilitate and take care of his needs for the rest of his life.