Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aharon Karov: Miracle, Patriot, Regular Guy

I fist wrote here about Aharon Karov on February 3rd, ten months ago. During the first week of the Gaza operation, as most of the work was being done by the air force, his commanding officer let him out for a few days to get married. The morning after the wedding, however, he was called back to complete the preparations of his platoon for battle. A few days later, as he commanded them under fire, the media caught wind of the story and splashed it all over the papers: a young lieutenant called from his wedding into battle. A few days after that he was grievously wounded when Hamas fighters exploded a booby-trapped home on his troops. The assumption was that he would not survive.

In April I told that he was out of the hospital. A month or two later he re-joined his platoon for an imprtant ceremony, and was promoted to first lieutenant. Then he blessedly dropped off our communal screen for a while - though I must add that when I read the Goldstone Report and its silly descriptions of the sort of warfare it authors imagined must have been happening in Gaza, Karov's story did flit through my mind. There's not much in the Goldstone Report that would explain how he was wounded.

Now he's back again. Yediot had a long interview with him and his wife, Zvia, in their weekend section - but it doesn't seem to be online in any form so I can't link to it. Channel Two TV interviewed him.

Here's some of the story. He was called up at 8 am after the wedding. He and Zvia both cried, but never doubted he had to go do his duty. She sent her love via the newspaper story, but he was unable to send her any response.

When the building collpased on him, two other soldiers literally pulled him out from under the rubble, using the single visible limb. He had no face and hardly a head. A medic saved his life on the spot by inserting an air pipe through where the mouth had been to his lungs. Twenty minutes later a helicopter evacuated him, but during the flight the air pipe failed. A flight medic (these were 20-year-old medics, not doctors) opened his throat and inserted another pipe, thus averting his death for the third time in half an hour. After arriving at the hospital the doctors gave him no real chance for survival; one later told his wife that he thought it might be possible to avert his death but he'd never regain consciousness. His parent were rushed to the hospital to say goodby. His wife was told only that he was very seriously wounded.

The wife, Zvia, always assumed he'd be alright, she says, even during the long weeks in which he very much wasn't. A matter of religious belief, she says, but also the fact that one of her older brothers was mortally wounded in a previous war and recovered fully; he is now a lieutenant colonel.

Eleven months after his injury, he's still not fully back, but he's better than anyone in the know ever dared hope, and still improving. In a few weeks he and Zvia are to travel to Arizona, where there's a specialist who knows how to rebuild his face ("How often do you think someone's nose falls off, that a plastic surgeon would know how to deal with it?" Zvia asks).

Does he have regrets? "That I wasn't able to stay with my platoon until they completed their training." What gave him the strength to cope? "We don't give up. In our family, we never give up". Does he ever regret returning to his unit that morning? "No. Never. It was my duty. If I don't do my duty, who will?" How does he explain his recovery? "There were always three of us in this story. Zvia, me, and God. The three of us did it together".


Avigdor said...

Thanks, Yaakov.

Anonymous said...

I'm delighted to learn that he made it – and so impressively well! All the best to him and thanks to you for the follow-up.


Anonymous said...

Btw: Zvia might be surprised how many noses have to be reconstructed and how creative the lads and ladies dealing with that problem have become. Some of their ideas even work :) – I cannot remember the surgeon's name who reconstructed a friend's nose (dog bite), but he worked with these guys:


Lady-Light said...

This story is riveting, but very upsetting, too: if the army had followed Torah law,they would have allowed him to be a married man for 1 year, before calling him back to battle. The problem was that they were already in the middle of a war, but I do believe that is the halacha: not to take a newlywed man away from his wife for a year.