Ehud Amiton’s eyes welled with tears as he recalled being wounded in battle while serving as a staff sergeant in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in November 2006.
Addressing Hebrew Academy students in grades 9 through 11, 29-year-old Amiton, supporting himself on a cane, recounted the emotional and physical trauma he experienced when he was struck in the leg by Palestinian fire that year in a major combat mission in Hebron.
Amiton visited the high school as part of a delegation from Beit Halochem, a non-profit organization that assists more than 51,000 disabled Israeli veterans and victims of terror to rebuild their lives through rehabilitative programming and other support.
Every year Beit Halochem, with assistance from the Montreal Jewish community, brings a group of disabled veterans here for a holiday and to meet the local community, putting a human face on the sacrifices ordinary Israelis make in the defence of the state.
They are hosted in private homes.
With the help of local Beit Halochem volunteer Dado Ben-Brith who served as a translator, Amiton and former IDF corporal Shimon Pertz – who was captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and spent three months in an Egyptian prison – recounted in Hebrew how they overcame their emotional and physical wounds and persevered with the help of Beit Halochem.
Pertz, 60, ultimately married and became a father and is now in charge of the Beit Halochem rehab centre in Rishon Lezion. Following eight months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, Amiton returned to the army to complete his three years of military service, despite being exempt due to his injury.
“I had to defend my country,” said Amiton, adding that we are raised to be strong and not to wallow in self-pity. “Serving Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael gave me strength.”
Amiton now works as a journalist for the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.
The guests underscored their appreciation for the support they receive from communities like Montreal outside of Israel. Following their presentations, the two were surrounded by intrigued students who continued to ask questions and view Amiton’s battle photos.
Another pair of veterans, Elior Haim and Eli Ezgaiv, visited Herzliah High School and shared their experiences with Grade 9 students.
“We were so young and when we were confined to moving around in a wheelchair, the members of the Beit Halochem centre would not let us give up,” Haim said. “I am here to tell you, you are young and to never give up. The future is full of possibilities.”
Several of the host families were also present. “It is humbling to see how grateful these young veterans are for all that we do while they stay here in Canada,” said Cheryl Sochaczevski-Solomon. “But in reality, it is we, Montreal Jewish community members, who are so thankful for all that they do to protect Israel.”