5 Towns 5K Run/Walk For Injured Veterans
By Rochelle Maruch Miller
The Five Towns community is known the world over as an exemplar of chesed, dedicated to promoting the greater good. On Sunday, April 21, many will come together in an extraordinary display of support to Israel’s heroes, the disabled and wounded veterans whose lives were forever changed on the battlefield or through an act of terror. Reaching across a diverse spectrum of the community, the Fourth Annual 5T5K Run/Walk, which will take place at North Woodmere Park, is expected to draw an unprecedented crowd.
“The 5T5K really cuts across all religious denominations, just as Beit Halochem does in Israel,” explained Dr. Isaac Seinuk of North Woodmere, the race director and a board member of Friends of Disabled War Veterans. “It’s a cause that touches everyone. I want people to really understand the outstanding work Beit Halochem does. Their commitment to each of the 51,000 disabled Israeli veterans and their families is never-ending; it’s a relationship that continues for a lifetime.
“When we hear a news report about Israeli soldiers being wounded, we feel relieved knowing they are alive. But their injuries can be painful and life-changing, both physically and emotionally, wreaking havoc on their lives and on their families. They have to live with their disabilities for the rest of their lives. They need help in becoming whole again, in resuming a life of normalcy. That’s what Beit Halochem is all about. “
The following are but two stories highlighting the amazing impact Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans–Beit Halochem has on the lives of veterans and their families who have given so selflessly of themselves in their service to Israel. Undeterred by the challenges they face in their changed lives and against all odds, the veterans strive to recover. At FIDV’s Beit Halochem, a wide range of rehabilitative services are provided to these wounded warriors, many of whom go on to become disabled athletes, even as they recuperate. FIDV–Beit Halochem plays a special role in helping veterans achieve their goals and making dreams possible. Israel has won more medals in the Paralympics games than in the regular Olympics. Beit Halochem is the reason why.
Reuven Magnagey is one of these athlete veterans. Ten years ago, this Golani Brigade combatant from a hesder yeshiva was sent to Jenin as part of Operation Defensive Shield. On one horrific day, his force walked into an ambush, and thirteen of his comrades were killed. Reuven was one of the few survivors.
“Actually, I’m the 14th casualty,” he says, displaying his dark sense of humor. “In retrospect, considering the hell that went on out there, I came out OK. I’m not completely paralyzed. But the emotional injury was harder.” A 40-year-old married father of five who lives in Mikve Israel, Reuven began his physical and mental rehabilitation in earnest at FIDV–Beit Halochem’s center in Tel Aviv, where he became totally immersed in healing through sports.
FIDV–Beit Halochem was there to help him and his family fight for healing and normalcy. This is all made possible through the generous support of FIDV’s friends. “My injuries changed my priorities completely,” Reuven says. “You try to find your strong points, the ones you still have control over. Tel Aviv’s Beit Halochem is a very warm and welcoming home for Zahal Disabled Veterans (ZDVO) and there is a wide array of activities to choose from. One of them is rowing.
“Seven years ago I found myself getting up early one morning and joining a rowing club. I have never looked back. Rowing has become a part of me. In the boat you feel you are in control. The restlessness I felt after the injury has disappeared. I thank Beit Halochem for making the healing possible by getting me started in rowing.”
A true champion, Reuven came in seventh at the 2011 world championship held in Slovenia. “Everyone wants a medal and trains for it. My goal was to beat last year’s results—a difficult challenge.”
When he and his new partner, Olga Sokolov, competed for the first time, they took sixth place in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Challenge met!
• • •
Sheri Ben-Aroya was an intelligence officer in the Air Force who returned to her home in Netanya to celebrate Pesach with her family. For the first time, they decided to gather in a hotel to celebrate the Seder. Minutes before the Seder began, a suicide bomber burst into the Park Hotel and blew himself up next to the table where Sheri and her family were sitting. Sheri’s father was killed instantly and her two brothers were severely injured. Sheri suffered from bomb shards that fractured her entire body. One shard penetrated her head, and she lay unconscious for three weeks. When she awakened, she was blind in one eye and her right arm was paralyzed.
For the next three years Sheri was immersed in a long and painful rehabilitative process in order to repair her body. Her doctors consider her progress to be a medical miracle and a sign of unbelievable willpower. She is stronger now and considers herself lucky to be a survivor.
Today, Beit Halochem Tel Aviv plays an important part in Sheri’s life. She swims and takes advantage of various kinds of treatments, along with communication exercises, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, art, and ceramics. In between, Sheri visits the psychologist and the social worker in order to become whole again.
Sheri has learned to speak again, to move the right side of her body, to write with her left hand, and to read Hebrew. She is proud of her new driver’s license and is able to drive on her own. Her big dream, however, was to volunteer in the army and be a casualties officer. “Because I had been injured in a terrorist attack, who can better understand these families than I?” Sheri’s dream was brought to fruition in December 2004, when she was graded as a lieutenant by General Shkedi of the Israeli Air Force and was integrated back into the army as a volunteer—all part of her painful struggle to return to normal life.
Today, the Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans–Beit Halochem centers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nehariya, Haifa, and Beer Sheva continue to transform lives as they open doors for Reuven, Sheri and all the 51,00 disabled soldiers to rebuild their lives, their hopes and dreams. Whether their wounds are physical, emotional, or both, Beit Halochem is there to provide all the succor and support for these heroes to enable them to accept their changed worlds and persevere with courage, determination, and purpose to create new and fulfilling lives for themselves.
The Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans helps raise funds for Beit Halochem in the United States. Established in 1949 to provide rehabilitation and assistance to the 6,000 veterans who were wounded in Israel’s War of Independence, Beit Halochem’s membership has, unfortunately, grown to over 50,000 disabled heroes wounded during their active or reserve services or through acts of terror.
“Beit Halochem is a very important and unique cause,” says Rabbi Hershel Billet. “There are many organizations supporting active IDF soldiers and veterans. But there is only one Beit Halochem for wounded and disabled IDF veterans. They are not helped by any IDF organization.”
Rabbi Billet adds, “Beit Halochem is a great place. It is the safe haven for IDF injured and disabled veterans and their families. It is multifaceted and staffed by loving professional personnel.” He says he took three grandsons there, and they were amazed.
“Therapy is focused on the family unit,” explained Colonel (Res.) Ilan Egozi, executive director of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization. “The handicapped person won’t come to Beit Halochem alone, but if we provide activities for his wife and children, he will.” He said that an emphasis on sports, whether it be at the gym or on the tennis court, is part of a larger plan, to strengthen the handicapped person, both physically and mentally. Physical therapy alone is too passive, he says, while competition builds self-confidence. “They are not here to be protected. We are trying to give them the motivation to learn from others in the same situation, to feel that they are just like everyone else.”
For Dr. Seinuk, heightening public awareness about Beit Halochem is of paramount importance. “It amazes me that I hadn’t heard about it before,” he says. With meticulous attention to every detail, he began working on this year’s event last October, attending to obtaining ordinances and other matters. “We raised $75,000 during the past three 5T5Ks and we expect to raise $100,000 with the participation of this year’s event.”
Dr. Seinuk is appreciative of the generous support of all the 5T5K sponsors and expresses his heartfelt gratitude to a special individual. “The person who really got the 5T5K off the ground is Shalom Maidenbaum of Maidenbaum Tax Reduction LLC. As a result of his efforts, we will have raised $100,000 at the end of this year’s 5T5K. He has been, and continues to be, a tremendous supporter.” He also lauded the Auxiliary Police for doing “an amazing job.”
The race begins at 10:00 a.m. from North Woodmere Park. Information about the event can be found at www.5towns5k.org. Please arrive at the park before 9:30 a.m. for registration and check-in. The Kids Fun Run is at 9:30. Fun Run participants should arrive no later than 9:00 a.m.
Please show your support in any capacity possible. “If you cannot walk or run, please do volunteer. Some 200–300 people will be registering on the day of the race, and volunteers are needed with registration as well as in other areas,” says Dr. Seinuk. Every volunteer will receive a T‑shirt; if you are interested in volunteering, please send an e‑mail with your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the 5T5K! v