“Going into Gaza has changed my life forever.”

Reuven Magen, 20, an armoured corps fighter was severely wounded in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014. He was serving in a newly formed reconnaissance unit combining armoured corps and infantry. Reuven and his squadron entered Gaza four days after the fighting began.

image: Reuven Magen in recovery

Thanks to Beit Halochem, Reuven and hundreds of others wounded last summer are not alone in their rehabilitation.

“Our first two days felt like two years. We went through houses and so many things happened to us. I barely slept. When we arrived in Sajaiya, there was no one there and the place looked like a scene from a movie: houses with no walls, full of smoke and a burnt smell….

“On the evening of July 31st, our mission was to enter and exit Gaza again. The engineering corps unit was to destroy the tunnels while we provided cover. As we were returning to Israel in armoured personnel carriers, there was a sudden white curtain, then total silence. When my vision and hearing returned, I saw that my friend Shai was lying next to me. He was dead. I heard whistling sounds and screams of ‘We’ve been hit.’ We had been struck by a mortar. You cannot comprehend the devastation and havoc. Five of my friends were killed in this terrible attack.”

Reuven lay injured in the field for 20 minutes. “To me, it seemed like an eternity. I had a gigantic hole in my right calf. The shrapnel ripped off flesh and muscle and crushed much of the bone. As we waited for the helicopter, I thought, ‘Will they have to amputate my leg? Will I ever walk again?’ ”

Reuven underwent many surgeries and spent five months in hospital. Today, he uses crutches to get around. An Illizarov apparatus is attached to his leg to stretch the bone slightly each day.

“By taking blood vessels and muscle from my back and transplanting them into my leg, the doctors have literally rebuilt my leg. I now need to deal with pain and lack of sleep. Being immobile is what really gets me down.”

Disabled veterans and Beit Halochem volunteers visited Reuven and the other soldiers in the hospital, providing vital comfort and support to them and their families.

“These visits helped me understand that I am not alone. There is an organization that will take care of me and my friends for the rest of our lives.”