January 23, 2007 / 4 Shevat 5767
Tomer Weinberg, 26, shuffles easily around his Kiryat Motzkin apartment, keeping his right arm close to his body while he uses his left hand to maneuver the television remote control or wash the lunch dishes in the kitchen sink. A mechanical engineering student at ORT Braude College in nearby Carmiel, he can even tool around on his laptop.
But the metal fixator encircling his upper arm and attached by several screws to the length of his arm are a constant reminder of what Tomer experienced just six months ago, in an event that sparked last summer’s war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hizbollah.
It was July 12, Tomer's last day of annual reserve duty, and he was riding in an IDF Hummer with five other fellow reservists, as they guarded Israel’s border with Lebanon. A missile suddenly hit the Hummer, and in the smoke and confusion that immediately ensued, Tomer realized that the Hizbullah attackers were close by. Suffering from arm, leg and chest wounds from Hizbullah gun shots, Tomer gave the Hummer’s driver his gun and made him promise that his fellow reservist would shoot him dead rather than let him be taken hostage.
“I did what they told us to do during training and got as far away from the car as possible,” he tells.
His fellow reservists weren’t as lucky. Three were killed and two, Elad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were taken captive, and haven’t been heard from since that day.
“They never said a word,” says Tomer of the Hizbullah attackers.
Tomer threw himself out of the vehicle and managed to crawl about 400 feet away from the scene of the attack, taking cover under some bushes. He lay there, wounded, for 40 minutes, unsure whether the Hizbullah attackers could see him and were waiting to kill or capture him. When a rescue squad finally arrived, he had to wait to identify himself until he was sure they were Israeli soldiers. Even then, it took another 20 minutes to free him from the scene because they were working under Hizbullah gunfire.
“I couldn’t walk or even hop because of the gunshots,” he explains, conjecturing that what hid him from the Hizbullah was another bush situated between the bush under which he was partially hidden and the vehicle. “Those 40 minutes felt like forever.”
When Tomer finally reached the closest hospital, he underwent a series of operations in an attempt to save his arm. One bullet had entered and exited his chest without causing any harm, while another remains lodged in his calf. His arm, however, was shattered, and the fixator is keeping the arm stabilized while allowing the bone to grow back.
It was while Tomer was recovering at Haifa’s Rambam hospital that he was told about the grants being offered by the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror, supported by the United Jewish Communities and Federations of North America's Israel Emergency Campaign to help victims of Israel’s summertime war with Lebanon. Originally established for terror victims during the last Intifada, the Fund was renewed to help Israelis affected by the recent conflict with Lebanon. Recipients include wounded soldiers and civilians.
“The assistance came at just the right time,” said Tomer, who used the NIS 17,500 ($4,130) he received to buy secondhand electrical appliances, including a television, oven, washing machine and air conditioning unit for his new apartment. “It’s exciting that someone cares, that it matters to them what happened to me.”
While using daily therapy to work on his leg and his arm, Weinberg has returned to school part-time, and hopes to have the fixator removed in the next month or two. He’s been told that he will regain nearly full use of his arm, but he has also learned how to compensate with his left hand, including learning how to drive.
For now, it seems, much of Tomer's life is starting to return to normal. At the same time, nothing will be the same, not as long as his fellow reservists, Elad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, remain captives of the Hizbullah. A pile of bumper stickers, printed with their names and pictures, lay on the living room coffee table. Nearby, Tomer looks at pictures on his laptop of his unit’s end-of-reserve duty party, just one day before the attack.
“There they are,” he says, pointing at Regev and Goldwasser’s faces. “You see? It was a karaoke party. Everything was normal then.”