In a bit of upbeat news during a tough week for the Jewish state, Israel Defense Forces Captain Ziv Shilon, who lost his left hand in a Gaza border attack in 2012, welcomed his first child into the world on Wednesday with the birth of his daughter.
I interviewed Shilon when he came to Chicago in 2013 to undergo tests sponsored by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) to determine whether he can be equipped with a better prosthetic arm. He told me then how he realized an explosive device had detonated near him while on patrol near the Gaza border. His left hand was torn off and his right hand was still hanging on by just a few pieces of skin. Multiple surgeries and months of rehabilitation later, his left hand had been replaced by a hook prosthesis and his right hand was paralyzed.
Despite what he had gone through, Shilon told me he was adamant that “defending the state of Israel is a need that still burns inside of me. It’s the noblest goal one can devote one’s life to, and I do not regret it for a moment…I really hope it will be possible.”
He also insisted on continuing to live his life to the fullest. “Climb one hill at a time," he told me. "Don’t try to cross Mount Everest. It’s not possible to think that in three months you can go back to the way things were if you lost both your legs. You need to create small goals along the way for yourself, and go step by step until you can climb the entire Empire State Building.”
And since that time, Shilon has done just that. In 2014 he proposed to his longtime girlfriend Adi Sitbon in front of more than 1,000 people at a FIDF gala in Miami
"FIDF says that our job is to protect Israel; their job is to give us the reason. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask my girlfriend, Adi, just one question. You are my hope, my rock, and my everything. I wanted to ask you, will you marry me?” Shilon told his girlfriend on stage.
After an emotional "yes" from Sitbon, a video message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was aired, in which he congratulated the couple.
Then in September of this year, despite all of the rehabilitations and physical limitations that he faced, Shilon registered for and ran in the Berlin marathon. He got to finish line of the 42-kilometer (26-mile) race in four hours.
"I feel fantastic, it was a huge challenge that I set for myself a long time ago. I practiced quite a bit. I began this journey from a place where, for almost two years, I had not done any physical activity because of the serious trauma my body suffered, and after a long journey I got far with a lot of falls along the way," Shilon told Israel's Channel 2.
On Wednesday this week, Shilon's wife gave birth to their daughter in the same hospital where he was treated in after his injury, the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.
“There are no words to describe the joy, the excitement, and the power. Especially in these times, in the most symbolic way, we completed the biggest victory possible! So thank you: To my hero wife, to god, and most of all to my dear friends who put their bodies at risk and make it possible for us to raise our children in the holy land!” he posted on Facebook.
“I will teach my daughter values of love, giving, and loving others. I hope I’m successful. Three years ago I was lying here, on my deathbed, not far from the delivery room. Today I stand here after (running the) Berlin marathon, giving talks about my life story all over the world. My biggest victory came today. My wife and my little nest received a significant spot of light that gives us a lot of strength for the future. The gift I got today gave me a different perspective," he wrote.