Over 1,000 people came out on June 12 for Beit Halochem Canada’s annual Celebration of Life concert to hear Israeli music and first-hand stories from Israeli soldiers wounded in war.
The event, which has been held for more than 20 years, raises funds for the more than 50,000 injured Israeli soldiers, and raises awareness about the work that Beit Halochem Canada does in supporting these disabled veterans.
Beit Halochem Canada supports rehabilitation facilities all over Israel, offering physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, therapeutic devices, specialized sports equipment and training, family-oriented programming, creative and cultural activities.
In between musical performances from Israeli recording artist Gilan Shahaf, singer Mika Sade and keyboard player, composer and musical producer Alon Radai, the audience heard from disabled Israeli veterans who were wounded in service.
Nachmi Feinblatt, a member of the IDF’s elite “Oketz” K9 unit was wounded while leading paratroopers in southern Lebanon, when his service dog, Linda, detected a bomb. She warned the soldiers of the threat, which helped save many lives.
Feinblatt, however, suffered severe injuries and was bleeding profusely while he waited for an Israeli helicopter to take him to medical aid. While he lay bleeding, Linda lay on top of him to protect him, an “unconditional loyalty” that he said he would never forget.
Feinblatt described in a video presentation how he said a prayer as he lay there, believing that he wouldn’t get out alive. He was airlifted, but deteriorated while in flight, causing the helicopter to make an emergency landing and perform a field operation. It saved his life and he slowly recuperated.
“I saw the end,” he told the audience in person after the video presentation of his story was shown. His recovery wasn’t easy, he said. “Beit Halochem gave me my confidence back. It’s an organization with people who understand what you’ve been through.”
Today, he is married and is a lawyer in Israel.
Another disabled Israeli soldier, Einat Malka, who served as a combat fitness instructor for elite IDF units, shared her story.
During a routine field training exercise, she began feeling a sharp pain in her leg. Suddenly, the woman who had been a powerful athlete since her childhood, who was heading for world championships, found herself at 19 unable to walk.
“I couldn’t walk for 10 years,” she said. “Those were 10 dark years. Suddenly, I needed people to help me, take me, bring me.”
After countless visits to doctors, she was finally told the only way she could walk again was by amputating her right leg. She agreed, and learned to walk with a prosthetic just as her young daughter was learning to walk as well.
“We learned to walk together,” she said. Today, she is training for triathlons with hopes of participating in the next Olympic games. She also assists Beit Halochem members in Eilat.
“I had to lose my leg to get my life back. I got it back alright – big time,” she said. “I feel whole and healthy. I’m honoured to say to you tonight: thank you.”