A Soldier’s Story

December 22, 2023

In the midst of the tragedy that unfolded in Israel on October 7th, one lone soldier from Great Neck, New York, found himself on an unexpected journey.

Aaron, 33 years old and a VP of Marketing was at a work conference when he received a series of missed calls from his wife, delivering the shocking news that Hamas terrorists had overrun the border. Aaron was quickly called up for reserves, and immediately understood that he would be saying goodbye to the professional happy hours and networking events he was enjoying in Las Vegas and be heading toward the southern reaches of Israel.

“Life is about to drastically change for me,” he realized amid the canceled flights and the logistical challenges of finding a way back to Israel. Eventually securing a flight, Aaron arrived in Ze’elim where he joined his unit, a compilation of soldiers trained and ready for combat in Gaza.

The mission at hand was formidable—to take the northern part of the Gaza Strip, Beit Hanoun, and move south, ousting Hamas operatives while uncovering hidden tunnels.

Moving south towards Jabalia required crossing near a school, which was a confirmed Hamas stronghold, used as a site of munition and rocket storage. A sniper from within the school opened fire, claiming the life of their officer, Omri David, and injuring another soldier. Aaron immediately returned fire to try and take out the sniper. While attempting to rescue his fallen officer, he was also struck in the right leg by the sniper’s bullet. He crawled to safety amidst continuous gunfire “And while I was doing that, the sniper, along with another Hamas operative with an AK-47, were shooting at us. A bullet clipped my left leg, and I’m extremely lucky that the bullet went in and out, doing no permanent damage.”

A few pieces of shrapnel also injured his hip and lower back. He made it to a safe area and where the IDF evacuated Aaron in a Hummer and then a helicopter brought him to Sheba Medical Center.

“All in all, from the moment a bullet struck my right leg, to the time that I entered surgery, we’re talking about two hours, although it felt like two days.”

At Sheba, Aaron found solace in the professionalism and care from the staff. The delicate balance of seriousness and understanding demonstrated by the doctors, coupled with the support from nurses, army officers, volunteers, and therapists, created an environment of healing and resilience.

“At Sheba, it’s all smiles and professionalism. The surgeons, from the moment that I opened my eyes and was semi-conscious of what was happening, I’ve been pretty enamored with the level of care here. We’ve been through some heavy moments and have lost comrades or seen other comrades fall injured. And I’ve been very fortunate. I think I had a slew of some of the best surgeons in Israel take care of me and make sure that, not only do I get to keep my leg, but in a few months, I should be able to actually walk out of here on both legs. And for that I’m extremely grateful.”

“From the nurses, the staff, the army officers that are surrounding us, the people who have come to volunteer and donate, to the physical therapists and people who are coming to help us do acupuncture or mental evaluations, everyone here has really been a godsend, and I’m lucky that they sent me here. I appreciate every moment of it. It’s a hard road ahead, but with these kinds of people around me and this level of support, I think I’m going to be okay.”

Aaron is currently hospitalized in the Returning to Life department at Sheba Medical Center where he is undergoing physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments. He is surrounded by others who have been injured in this conflict and the feeling of solidarity and understanding is a strong force of healing

As he looks towards the challenging road of recovery ahead, Aaron remains hopeful. The transition from a business conference in Las Vegas to the frontline of conflict in Gaza is a journey few people experience, but Aaron’s optimism as he navigates this complex situation is a powerful testament to the ability to find hope even in the most challenging circumstances. And the launching pad to the next stage of his life will be his treatment at Sheba Medical Center.

Am Yisrael Chai.


PS: If you missed it, CBS’ “Sunday Morning” did a wonderful profile of Dr. Itai Pessach, the head of Sheba’s Safra Children’s Hospital. You can see it here.

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