On Jan 12, 2009, during the Israeli army’s operation in Gaza, an apparently mortally wounded paratrooper was helicoptered to a hospital in Israel. The left side of his face, including his nose, had been ripped away, and his body had been pierced by more than 500 shrapnel fragments.
It seemed unlikely that 2nd Lieutenant Aharon Karov, 21, a soldier in the elite Paratrooper Brigade 890, was going to survive. And if he did, it might have been as a vegetable. Nobody imagined that, just four years later, he would be running in the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.
But run he will, along with 81 other Israeli marathoners in a race that will draw close to 47,000 runners this Sunday.
Asked what his goal is for the event, he said: “I just want to finish the marathon, that’s all.”
In 2010, another former Israeli soldier, Gabi Yarkoni, who was blinded in a 1995 mission in Lebanon ran the marathon tethered to a “seeing” runner.
Karov’s effort on Sunday, as was Yarkoni’s, will be a run of resilience. Less than two weeks before being wounded, Karov had danced the night away at his own wedding. He was entitled to time off, but he and his bride, Tzvia, were in agreement that duty to the nation came first.
Twelve hours after saying their vows, and not without tears, Karov headed back to his unit. In Gaza, his soldiers were ordered to search a house that had been booby-trapped. Karov, who entered first, took the brunt of the huge explosion. The first soldier to reach Karov, as he lay motionless under the rubble, reported that he was dead.
Aboard the rescue helicopter, the wisp of life remaining in Karov was fading fast. A medic slit his lower throat to insert a breathing tube, a procedure never previously done in the air. Reviewing the X-ray showing shrapnel in Korvel’s head, “dangerously close to the dominant left side of his brain, not far from the speech region,” neurosurgeon Steve Jackson was not optimistic.
Jackson was amazed to learn that his patient had gone from his wedding into battle.
“You grow upon stories of heroes, and here I was was going to be operating on one,” says Jackson. Outside the waiting room, he told the weeping Tzvia, “For somebody so dedicated to his country as your husband, I have to give 150%.”
Jackson also promised that, if they had a son, he would, as a licensed mohel, perform the ritual circumcision.