IDF soldier injured in Lebanon War dies after 31 years in vegetative state
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IDF soldier injured in Lebanon War dies after 31 years in vegetative state

Friends and family remember Sgt. Avraham Ajami as 'special' 19-year-old who 'never stopped smiling'

IDF vehicles drive over the Awali bridge as they retreat from Lebanon on February 16, 1985. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
IDF vehicles drive over the Awali bridge as they retreat from Lebanon on February 16, 1985. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

An IDF soldier who suffered critical injuries in Lebanon 31 years ago and has since been in a vegetative state died this week at age 50 and was buried on Wednesday.

At his funeral, Sgt. Avraham Ajami was remembered by friends and family as a shy 19-year-old who was “loved by everyone.”

Ajami served in the Israeli artillery corps while the IDF was fighting in southern Lebanon.

In 1987, a shell exploded near him during a battle at an army post in the town of Marjayoun.

Ajami was evacuated to the hospital in a critical state after sustaining serious head injuries. He managed to survive, but never woke up and spent 31 years in a vegetative state.

Surrounded by family members and friends, Ajami died on Tuesday after falling ill with pneumonia two weeks ago.

A full military ceremony, attended by dozens of people, was held in his honor Wednesday at the military cemetery in Holon, the Hebrew-language Ynet news site reported.

“Abraham was loved by everyone — [he was] shy, introverted and liked helping others,” said his sister, Metuka Aspir. “He never even had a girlfriend, because he was only 19 and stayed 19. He didn’t get that privilege.”

Ajami’s brother, Reuven, said in his eulogy that “friends loved him, and it seems like he was truly a special person. After the injury, they told us things about him we didn’t know, since he was so shy. He was no ordinary person.”

“He had immense inner strength and always smiled,” said Ajami’s commander, Dror Lifshitz. “I remember we once tried to educate him and told him to wipe his smile off his face, and he said ‘okay,’ but then came back smiling and said, ‘I just can’t wipe it off.'”

Deputy Diplomacy Minister Michael Oren, who represented the government at the ceremony, mourned the family’s “unbearable” loss.

“I can’t remember such a tragic case of a soldier who falls in battle, but doesn’t fall; who comes back home but doesn’t come back; who reunites with his family — but doesn’t come back, and stayed in limbo for 31 years. It is unbearable,” said Oren.

“On my behalf and on behalf of the government, I wish you peace, calm and rest which you so much deserve after all these years.”

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