An IDF soldier who was mortally wounded in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last summer, will leave his hospital bed to launch the Israman triathlon on January 30, Israeli media reported Sunday.
While serving in the IDF’s elite Egoz reconnaissance unit, Ohad Ben-Yishai, 20, received critical shrapnel wounds to the head during the July 19-20 battle of Shejaiya, on the outskirts of Gaza City.
The battle saw 13 soldiers killed by Hamas gunmen, including seven who were trapped in an outmoded armored personnel carrier that was hit by an anti-tank missile. Many of the casualties belonged the IDF’s Golani Brigade.
Ben-Yishai is undergoing a process of rehabilitation in a hospital in central Israel, and is still paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.
His father, Shimon Ben-Yishai, will participate in the triathlon and said that after months of intensive care his son will cheer him on from the sidelines, marking perhaps a return to a semblance of the normalcy that they knew before the war.
“Seeing Ohad encourage me while I compete in the Israman triathlon signals for me a return to the regular, normative life we used to lead,” the elder Ben-Yishai said in a statement Friday.
“For the past six months I’ve supported Ohad nonstop from his bedside, and now it’s his turn, for several hours, to support me while I compete in the [event],” he said.
Israel’s Ironman offshoot, the Israman Negev, is held annually in the southern resort town of Eilat and has the highest attendance rate of Israel’s triathlons.
One thousand six hundred participants from 26 countries are expected to take part in the 2015 competition, in a circuit entailing 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) of swimming, 180 kilometers (112 miles) of cycling and a 42.2 kilometers (26.3 miles) on foot — a full marathon.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge with the stated intention of curbing Hamas rocket fire on Israeli towns and kibbutzim.
The 50-day conflict that ensued between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups resulted in the deaths of approximately 2,200 Palestinians, according to Hamas figures, and 72 people on the Israeli side, including 64 soldiers.
“I want to thank the organizers for letting my son get a bit of a break from his hospital room to kick-start the triathlon,” Ben-Yishai said.
“Ohad is relearning basic functions such as walking and talking and I hope that by next year we will be able to stand at the starting line together,” he said.