Kobi Nachshoni – YNet
It was meant to be another event saluting Chabad emissaries inIsrael, but this is a salute they will never forget. Captain Ziv Shilon, an IDF officer who was critically injured when a bomb went off on the Gaza border and became the symbol of fighters’ heroism, was the guest of honor at the ceremony and saluted the hundreds of emissaries – and mainly the late Lubavitcher Rebbe – with his prosthetic left arm.
The emotionally moving event, which was held over the weekend at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (ICC), appeared to be a meeting between two ends of the Israeli society, but was filled with unity and faith. While Knesset members are busy fighting over the haredi draft law, the warm mutual hug between the IDF officer and the Hasidim – and especially Shilon’s remarks – took on a special meaning.
“Our power as a Jewish people will never be complete if we give up on either one of them – the sword and God’s Torah,” he stated.
A member of the Chabad Youth Organization, which organized the event, explained the need for a special tribute to the activists in Israel. “Everyone is talking about Katmandu, but we have emissaries in (the northern town of) Givat Ada to. Here we may not have the heroic halo like in Siberia and the Far East, but the devotion is the same devotion.”
The Jerusalem ceremony lauded the activity in 312 Chabad houses sponsored by the organization and raised funds to keep them going.
Popular Hasidic singer Avraham Fried gave a full show as a proud Chabadnik, and also hosted brothers Aryeh and Gil Gat for a few songs. But the highlight of the evening belonged to Captain Shilon, who spoke about Menachem Kutner, the Chabad emissary who escorted him from his injury to his return to life, and about his life-altering meeting in New York with the Rebbe’s image and virtues.
‘I managed to get up thanks to Providence’
In his speech, the officer described the seconds after his critical injury, in which he managed to pick himself up, use his injured arm to carry the other arm, which was cut off, and run several hundred meters towards his subordinates in order to save his life.
“It’s clear to me that I managed to get up only thanks to Providence,” he said, and the audience applauded and wiped away tears, again and again. “This evening I say one more prayer from here: That I’ll be able to restore my right arm and return to my dear soldiers.”
Shilon was exposed to the world of the Rebbe when he traveled to the United States as part of a trip for injured IDF soldiers organized by Kutner. Between one tourist attraction to another, the delegation members got a spiritual time-out when they visited the Rebbe’s grave in New York.
Ziv prayed there from the bottom of his heart for a sign from the rabbi in regards to his own private struggle to return to life, and says he received an “amazing sign.”
“The chapter of Psalms I recited included the word ‘yad’ (hand) three times. That is something which filled me with a lot of strength to move on,” he said excitedly. “I know and I am certain that thanks to the rabbi’s blessing I got to light a Hanukkah candle with my wounded hand.
“The rabbi was a ‘quiet leader,’ as we say in military lingo,” Shilon said following the short yet significant meeting. “A leader with a lot of sweeping charisma who is seen by masses as the leader of a way, and at the same time also a humble, modest leader who gives personal attention to every single person. That is something which captured my heart.”
He concluded by saying, “I find a lot of similarities between the life of a Chabad man and the life of a soldier in Israel: They both dedicate their time and their family life and the most important things in favor of their Jewish brothers wherever they are – either through the power of the sword or in the name of God’s Torah. Our strength as a Jewish people will never be complete if we give up on one of them.”
After his speech, Shilon received a token of respect from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Aharonov, chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel, who saluted him and said: “This evening proves that things can be done differently. We are brothers, and Chabad emissaries in Israel have a strategic role of creating a bridge between all parts of the nation, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught us to love each and every man and woman.”
Full translated speech of Captain Ziv Shilon
Dear Shluchim, Friends of Chabad in Israel and all over the world,
I’m proud and happy to take part in this wonderful evening in honor of the Chabad Shluchim and thousands of Friends of Chabad who are with us here!
You’ve just seen the story of my life in a video, in particular the last few years. Believe me, in real life it was much longer and much more complex.
My story also represents those of many other wounded soldiers, all of whom have given their all in defense of the State of Israel.
In the spirit of the month of Adar, which will bring us good, I want to tell you about one small miracle which occurred from heaven, followed by a long path, paved with good deeds in Heaven’s name.
On 23.10.2012, a year and four months ago, when I was laying profusely bleeding near the Maarechet Fence in Aza, with both my arms almost completely disconnected from my body, I felt my strength ebbing.
Human strength with which I was familiar until then, left me. Today, when I look back, it is clear to me that only heavenly intervention helped me to get up, holding my amputated left arm with the remnants of my right arm, and to run about 250 meters towards my force behind me. It was a seemingly unending journey, with my mind engulfed in thoughts, including thoughts of the world to come…
In truth, I can say that I hadn’t anticipated such strength. This power came to me with much aid from heaven, strength that has accompanied me, so I believe, till today!
I was first acquainted with Chabad when Rabbi Menachem Kutner, a Chabad Shaliach and Director of Chabad Terror Victims Project (CTVP), came to visit me in the hospital after I was wounded. He came to encourage me and my family in those most difficult moments.
Before the injury, I hadn’t even known that Chabad Shluchim take part in the treatment and care in such situations. I thought they spread their ideas and cared for those connected to them. I was so happy to find out that there is more to their work.
Menachem was with me and my family, and with many more wounded soldiers, during our most difficult and complex times as we fought our way back to life. Without these good people, it would have been hard, or nearly impossible, to climb back.
After I had recovered a little, I went on a trip to New York with a delegation organized by Chabad Shluchim especially for us — for wounded soldiers and those injured in terror attacks. It was there that I discovered the wonderful world of Chabad and the extraordinary leadership of the Rebbe. It was then that I realized where Chabad Shluchim receive their instructions to help all Jews!
The Rebbe was a ‘quiet leader’, as we would call it in the military.
A leader with a lot of charisma so that people saw him as the leader that he was. But also a leader with humility and modesty who paid individual attention to each person. And that’s what captured my heart.
The Rebbe called the IDF disabled — “The excellent of the IDF”. He knew they had the responsibility for taking on the defense of Jewish citizens of Israel and how incredibly important that was. He did not call them disabled, but rather excellent!
My personal experience with the Rebbe was at his gravesite. I asked the Rebbe from the bottom of my heart to send me a sign that my right hand will be healthy and that my mother will live.
I did receive from the Rebbe an answer and blessing in the following awesome sign: In the Psalm that I said at the grave, the word – hand — appeared three times. This gave me a lot of strength to continue.
On Chanukah Menachem visited me again at Tel Hashomer rehabilitation center after I had a very complex operation. I know and am certain that because of the Rebbe’s blessings, I was able to light a Chanukah candle using my wounded hand!
As a believer, but not defined as religious, I was enthralled by the ability of Chabad Shluchim to provide “a moment of rest ” during the constant struggle of rehabilitation and healing. The amazing experiences we have are products of the hard work of the Shluchim, which, without question, lift the atmosphere and spirits of wounded soldiers!
Everyone knows that the Shluchim are everywhere around the world. They give every Jew a place to go during times of joy as well as in times of trouble. They provide small moments of ‘Jewish magic’ for Jews in places far from home.
But I learned that here in Israel, close to home, the Chabad Shluchim like Menachem provide so much warmth and light, and such helping hands here.
I find much similarity in the life of a Chabad Shaliach with the life of an army person in Israel. They both dedicate their time and their family life to the most important things – the benefit of our Jewish family wherever they are.
The soldier does so with the strength of the sword, and the Shaliach with the strength of the Holy Torah. And it is known that the sword is likened to the Torah. Our strength as a Jewish nation will never be whole if we give up on either one of them!
Even during the densest fighting, our soldiers find the time to don Tefillin and strengthen their arms for the next battle.
Tonight I can state that I will do all in my power to return and fight to preserve Israel’s boundaries. I’ll do so with the help of prayers and the support along the way, from Jews like you, the Chabad Shluchim.
I’ll be able, with G-d’s help, to rehabilitate my right arm and return to the front with my dear soldiers, to watch and secure, so that no one, absolutely no one, will be able to threaten the existence of the Jewish nation.
So that I, and others fighting the same war as me, will be able to continue and advance in reaching this goal, Chabad needs the support of all its friends!
Dear friend, the Chabad Shluchim are already planning to flood the country with Mishloach Manot and the joy of Purim during the come weeks. They will go to hospitals, to the elderly and the weak, to victims of terror, to widows and orphans of IDF soldiers, and to the soldiers defending the nation and land of Israel.
To achieve the greatest success possible, as only they know how to do, they need your help and support!
Even the most difficult of our foes, upon seeing the nation of Israel united, won’t be able to stand against us! The unity of the nation is our greatest goal. As the Rebbe also discussed.
I salute you, the Chabad Shluchim, for your activities that you carry out with your whole heart, each and every one of you. And I bless all the wonderful friends of Chabad, for this marvelous partnership.
Thank you all very much.