The Times of Israel has reported the remarkable story of Izzy Ezagui.
Izzy grew up in Miami and during a Birthright trip to Israel in December 2006 he began to think about serving in the IDF. I this words: “It felt like the right thing to do. As a young Jewish person growing up in the States, you learn Jewish history . . . and, honestly, I look at it as a privilege to do something for the Jewish people.”
He moved to Israel with his family in August 2007 at the age of 19 and immediately enlisted. He was was guarding the Israeli-Gaza border a few weeks after Operation Cast Led broke out in 2008 when a mortar shell hit him directly and ripped his left arm from his body (he was a lefty!).
Ezagui refused to let the injury bring his IDF career to a halt. Six months after his injury, Ezagui decided that he would stop taking medication for phantom-limb pain. Izzy explains: “If it was up to the doctors, I would still be on those drugs. But I decided from day one I wanted to go back to the army, and back to combat.”
The army was not enthusiastic about Izzy returning to fight. As Izzy relates, “Not only did the army not want me back, but they told me I couldn’t come back. They were very tough on me, and didn’t want any part in my crazy dream.” Fortunately for Izzy, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant who became IDF Chief of Staff was head of Israel’s Southern Command when he was injured and visited him in the hospital. “The first thing I told him was that I wanted to go back to the army and to combat. It was the same thing I told all the generals and politicians who came to visit, but he was the only one who said okay.” Izzy stayed in touch with the general during the following six months during which he went to New York for rehab. Once Ezagui felt he was back in satisfactory shape, and after teaching himself how to shoot, climb ropes and do push ups, Izzy informed Galant that he was ready to return to combat and Galant helped him get back to the IDF.
By mid-2010, Ezagui was back in the IDF, serving in the Givati Brigade. He served in Hebron and even progressed to command school. Now that he is back in civilian life, Izzy gives motivational speeches for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and other organizations. He also he spends time with participants on Birthright visits and is writing a memoir.
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