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Israeli veterans to headline Canadian concerts

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Michael Zamir

Michael Zamir will be appearing in concerts in three major Canadian cities at the end of May. But he won’t be singing. Rather, the Jerusalem-based lawyer will be sharing the story of when he and his team of IDF paratroopers were attacked by Hezbollah terrorists during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the life-threatening injuries he suffered and how the organization Beit Halochem helped him to once again live a normal life.

Beit Halochem is devoted to helping wounded Israeli veterans recover from the injuries they sustained in service, whether physical or mental. Every year, the Canadian arm of the charity hosts its Celebration of Life concerts both to fundraise and to show its supporters where their money goes. The concerts will take place in Calgary on May 26, Montreal on May 28 and Toronto on May 30.

Zamir said he owes his life now to the care Beit Halochem provided him for the better part of a decade. When he arrived back in Israel following the attack, he was put in a medically-induced coma for four months, had to use a wheelchair for four years and crutches for another two. Beit Halochem provided services and facilities to help him recover all the way through. Today, he plays soccer and runs marathons.

“Beit Halochem is like my second home, not only for me, but for my family,” said Zamir. “It’s a community where you can meet new members who are like you,… and you will know how to help them, and they can help you.”

Zamir’s injuries from the war were both physical and psychological. He and his unit were hiding in a house in Debl, Lebanon in the early afternoon when Hezbollah fired a rocket into the house. Since Zamir was a medic, he immediately started caring for his injured friends, but 15 minutes later, another rocket landed in the middle of the house, sending everyone flying.

Zamir sustained serious injuries, including broken bones and open wounds, but over the course of the day, he treated his comrades, ferried them to safer areas, engaged in a firefight with a Hezbollah operative and was shot at multiple times before finally finding help. Despite his heroic efforts, nobody else in his unit survived.

Beit Halochem assisted Zamir with his physical issues, but also with his psychological trauma. In fact, Zamir was one of the volunteers in starting the organization’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) program, said Lisa Levy, executive director of Beit Halochem Canada.

“You’ve taken somebody from a wheelchair, really badly messed up … and he still suffers PTSD, he still suffers all that, but we’ve given him the tools on how to cope better, and the support network,” Levy said.

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Yoseph Haddad and Asia Mekonen, two other Israeli veterans, will also be speaking at the shows.

Haddad is a Christian Arab who was also injured in the Second Lebanon War. As the program for the event says, Haddad “remains dedicated to defending the State of Israel – this time, as a social activist combating the BDS movement.”

Mekonen is of Ethiopian-Jewish descent, born in the desert in 1991 as his family escaped Addis Ababa for Israel during Operation Solomon. He was blinded while serving in the Givati Brigade. Today, after being cared for by Beit Halochem, he is a Jerusalem-based musician who loves cycling.

Kol Esperanza, a well-known Israeli group of tenors, will also be performing at the concerts.

“The concert is amazing in that you’ve got your music from Israel, you’ve got that whole spirit and everything, but you’ve also got the story of the veterans,” said Levy. “Yes, the stories are sad, but they’re also very happy, because thanks to Beit Halochem, our veterans have been given a chance at a new life.”