Dror’s Story – The Shooting
Dror was born in April 27th, 1982 in Moshav Haniel, a small suburb 40 minutes north of Tel Aviv. At 22 years old Dror’s defining moment came during combat when he was shot twice at point blank range, once in the face and in the chest by a terrorist responsible for the death of dozens of innocent civilians.
It was January 29, 2004, and Dror had just finished his three-year duty in “Duvdevan”. The Army wanted him to sign up for one more year, but he had declined and was looking forward to becoming a civilian. During his three years (From 2001-2004) in the military, Dror had done over 150 missions-Israel had been in a virtual state of war.
For a change Israel was quiet. For the past two months there was a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinians in the city of Bethlehem. The Palestinians agreed to stop suicide bombers and the Israelis agreed not to go into the Muslim parts of Bethlehem.
Then, a week later a cell of Palestinians with a cache of weapons was found in Bethlehem. Shortly after, a deadly suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem, killing 11 people dispelled any illusions of peace.
When Dror heard the news of the Jerusalem bombing, he had a feeling that his time as a civilian may be cut short. Israeli intelligence knew exactly where the man responsible for bombing lived; however getting to him in Bethlehem was a dangerous and complex mission. Dror received a phone call- Duvdevan wanted him back. His assignment was to lead the mission to find the Hamas chief in Bethlehem behind the bombing. He was the only one who knew the streets well enough to be able to find the Hamas chief quickly.
It was 12:00 noon February 2nd, 2004 and Dror arrived at the terrorist’s house. He was sure he had the right place. A woman in her late thirties greeted him. Although her head was covered with a scarf, he recognized her immediately- she was the wife of Abaud. Suddenly she passed out and fell to the ground. Although not a doctor, Dror was a trained medic and began to treat her. Something was clearly not right – her breathing signs were normal, and she also was telling the children to leave the house in Arabic. Worried, Dror called the two other soldiers, who had come with him, away from sniper fire into the house. He began to think now that the woman was not in such critical condition and that she, perhaps, was faking. Nevertheless Dror decided he should get the best medical attention for the woman and called an Israeli doctor.
Before anyone could react in the room, the terrorist leader sprayed the room with bullets. He shot Dror in the chest and in the eye and Dror fell to the ground. At this point the terrorist was not visible to the other two Israeli soldiers, the terrorist fled through a hole in the wall behind him – both Israeli soldiers heard this and ran outside the house to chase him. They engaged in a shootout in the back of the yard. The terrorist was killed but one soldier was shot in the mouth. He had stopped breathing. Miraculously the Israeli doctor that Dror insisted on calling managed to get the soldier breathing again and brought him back to life.
After The Injury: The Struggle For Survival
By now Dror was on his way to a hospital inside Israel. He was not in a recognizable human form and the doctors thought he would not live more than a couple of days. Four days later Dror woke up, heavily drugged. He could no talk or move his arms. At this time Dror had 14 tubes in his body enabling him to breathe and feeding him intravenously.
Over the next year a lot of incredible things happened. He continued to receive a significant amount of drugs. When the doctors decided to take Dror off the drugs, he had become completely addicted to them. The pain from being taken off the drugs was beyond comprehension. Tied to the bed, sweating, he would go back and forth losing and regaining consciousness. The drugs he was being given were five times stronger than heroine.
Dror was still not breathing on his own. But then, for some unexplainable reason, one of the lungs hit by the bullet began to recover and the doctors began to think that maybe Dror now had a chance to breathe on his own. They started the process of taking Dror off oxygen for a few seconds. He would begin to suffocate until he passed out. This was the only way he could learn how to breathe again. After one month Dror started to breathe on his own through a hole in his neck.
Dror was moved into another unit now, and he started to move his hands and began writing like a little child. Then, one night he became so frustrated that he tore all the tubes out with his hands. It had now been 3 months since being shot and Dror was still not able to speak.
One Saturday a new replacement doctor came. She was a very good Doctor and noticed Dror was throwing up a lot in the last several months. She put her finger on Dror’s throat, where he breathed from, and asked him to say something. And then miraculously a sound. He was whispering at the start. After about two months of healing and speech therapy, Dror began to start speaking. Although today his voice is not the same as it once was, the doctor’s still don’t understand how Dror was able to speak.
During his recovery, Dror noticed that his behavior was different than other patients. He saw that many seemed to lose hope. He began to understand that spirit is stronger than matter, and if one has a strong spirit, the body will react. He had a new purpose and began to give lectures in the army. He spoke of the importance of the “inside warrior” and why it’s important to not just be a soldier and learn to fight with weapons and strategy. In his discussions with soldiers, he couldn’t help but think how simple their problems were compared to what he had gone through.
Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, Ariel Sharon’s head of the armed forces, decided to hold his retirement ceremony at Auschwitz. Out of the hundreds of people injured in the Israeli military, Dror was the only soldier selected to accompany Ya’alon. He joined a select group of five-star generals and the Minister of Defense Shaoul Mofez. Auschwitz put everything in perspective. It was historical proof how important defending the State of Israel was-the Jewish people could simply not leave their fate up to the international community. What happened before must never happen again. When he returned home from Auschwitz, Dror’s condition took a turn for the worse. He began to lose feeling in some of his body parts. He was going through a lot of tests and his situation deteriorated every week that passed. The tests revealed that Dror had fragments of a bullet still lodged in his spine.
He decided to use his own family money and went to a private doctor. He wanted to get a second opinion outside the country. He searched the Internet endlessly and began contacting centers around the world. He identified the top 10 centers in the world for spinal injuries – eight of them happened to be in the USA. At this time it was one year from Dror’s injury.
The doctors in Denver, Colorado studied Dror’s case and asked him to come to Denver immediately for additional tests. They concluded that: he must have surgery within two years or he will likely die, the survival rate of this type of operation was only 50% and the expense of the operation was $160,000. Dror managed to convince the government to pay for the operation and he flew to Denver. He did not tell his parents he was going to have an operation. He just said that he was going in for “more” tests.
Dror awoke after 12 hours of surgery. The first thing he tried to move was his finger but his body was asleep. After 10 minutes he started to move, and an American doctor came in to tell him the surgery was successful.
Founding Dror For The Wounded
Dror’s struggle to survive is a relevant story for all-Americans, Europeans, Asians, Jewish, and non-Jewish. People count deaths not injuries. Often an injured soldier can be in a hospital one year and never be the same again. When a wounded soldier returns home it often forces family members-parents, spouses, to stop working and take care of the wounded. This creates enormous stress, can lead to divorce and eventually can destroy a family.
Whether it’s Israel or the US, there are limits to the services governments can provide. Dror for the Wounded Foundation is there to bridge the gap and help improve the lives of injured IDF soldiers. Dror believes he survived for a reason, and so do we.