November 3, 2006: Courage

(Editor’s Note: Little did I know that I would end up working for the ALYN Wheels of Love ride!)

Courage. What does the word mean? Some might say that to take on the ALYN Hospital Bike Ride is an act of courage, riding a bicycle from Jerusalem to Eilat. But that would not be correct. By the time you are reading this, I will hopefully be finishing the ride (and will write about the experience next week), and will have many positive things to say, but I doubt the word “courage” will be in there.

Some have told us that making Aliyah, or living in the “West Bank” is an act of courage. But no, while there are many positive ways to describe life here, I am reserving the word “courage.”

If you read the quotations from virtually any Palestinian leader, you will hear them use the word “courage” over and over again to describe valiant warriors who shoot rockets and bullets at children. But their use of the term is obscene.

In the packets of materials that Alyn gives out to the riders is a letter from a young boy named Raz. He writes:

“On May 10th 2002, my family and I were in a terrible road crash. My older sister, Eden, was killed. The doctors said that if I lived, I would be a ‘vegetable.’ When I regained consciousness, mummy told me what had happened and said ‘If you want to go on living, you will have to work very hard.’ The next day I moved a finger….” That’s courage.

Tzur was a ten year old boy talented in math, flute and gymnastics. One day he was out with his father and some friends when he was shot in the head by terrorists from a passing car. He has received all kinds of treatments at ALYN including “animal” therapy and even “humor” therapy with ALYN resident magician. On my tour, they told me that sometimes kids are so terrified after trauma, that they simply will not respond to any type of traditional stimulus. ALYN does everything possible to find some way of bringing these children back. Now Tzur is making great progress. In fact, the headline in the story about Tzur from Alyn was “Terror Victim Smiles Again.” That’s courage.

ALYN also gives you a picture of a child being treated at the hospital that all riders are asked to affix to their bikes. These pictures were put together by a girl named Sara. Sara was also severely injured in a car accident. She was brought to ALYN, unable to walk or speak. It was not easy for Sara to help put 485 pictures together, but she wanted to thank ALYN for helping her. That’s courage.

Remember how much of the world’s press blamed Israel for a “disproportionate” reaction to the Hizbollah rocket attacks? They implied that these rockets were really not that dangerous. Well, along with hundreds of thousands of Israelis who had to stay in bomb shelters for a month was a certain severely handicapped child. He needs daily therapy as well as special equipment. Needless to say, while bomb shelters generally provide protection, this boy was in great danger in the shelter.

ALYN took him in where he stayed until the cease-fire.

You want courage? I give you the children of Alyn. Every day. And even more, it is the staff at Alyn that show courage. How can anyone face day after day, young kids who instead of being outside playing ball are trying to relearn how to hold a fork and knife by themselves? Every day, these miracle workers greet the children with big smiles and then sit down and try to figure out how they can help patch them back together so that these children regain some part of their childhood.

Now that, my friends, is courage.

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