Ir new battles
THE UK support charity for Beit Halochem is a major contributor to its work, having raised a recordbreaking £3 million for the year.
Fifteen per cent of the organisation’s £11 million annual target comes from the Israeli government. A quarter comes from members and the remaining 60 per cent from donations around the world.
Spencer Gelding, who leads Beit Halochem UK, is motivated by the desire “to have a strong Jewish state. Soldiers carrying out their national service are just young people looking forward to a life ahead of them.
“All we are here to do is help [those injured in service] back on their path and manage their disability.”
He believes the key to successful fundraising is to run things “like a business, not a charity” — for example, by offering networking opportunities to supporters.
“I think the older generation — especially when they came to Israel — were much more Zionistic and gave as a cause,” says Mr Gelding, 41. “Our generation want something in return. We are surviving because we have a young donor base.
“I help put people together. It’s about capitalising on networking. It is about making young people
for Kuchel Yoram, 67, who lost an arm serving in the air force during the Yom Kippur War. “A rescue vehicle tipped over and I was in it,” he recalls. “I saw my arm hanging off. My first thought was: ‘How am I going to play basketball again?’” Instead, he learnt golf, determined feel important. If something comes out of it, all I ask is they remember Beit Halochem.”
He says to them: “While you are sitting in your hotel, there are men and women on our borders protecting this country. No matter what you give, you can physically change the life of one of our guys.”
His focus is now on the new centre in Ashdod, which “will also be open to civilian victims of terror, as well as to orphans and widows of deceased IDF soldiers.
“And it will offer special outreach programmes to local underprivileged children.”
not to let his injury dictate his life. “I have never asked for help from anyone,” he says.
“The first day back from hospital, my car broke down. I said to my wife: ‘Don’t worry.’ I got the tools, sat on the floor, and using my legs, changed the tyre.”
His involvement with Beit Halochem has extended to supporting injured veterans seeking employment.
In the organisation’s Jerusalem pool, 10 men sing and clap. Some have lost limbs, others still battle with severe mental health issues. But together they find solace and support.
Moshe Mizrahi is showing off his archery skills in the courtyard. Although his sandals reveal missing toes on his left foot, he’s not here because of his army experiences.
The 64-year-old from Jerusalem — who offers watermelon and Bulgarian cheese to friends — becomes subdued as he recounts the story of his son Shacher, who committed suicide in 1995 after being relieved from army service for medical reasons. Six years later, his 21-year-old daughter Idit was shot and killed by a terrorist as he drove the family to a wedding.
“I don’t work anymore,” he says. “It’s not because I’ve reached retirement. It’s because my brain retired a long time ago.
“It’s never been the same since my daughter was murdered in front of me. She was just out of the army. They shot at our car, they shot me in the foot, they murdered her.
“I am past the bereavement, the crying and the pain,” he adds, stressing his gratitude for the refuge Beit
Halochem has provided.
Gadi Sharlin, 69, was found alive in a Haifa morgue after being shot in the head during the Six Day War. Paralysed from the neck down, the former Golani soldier remembers having to “learn the aleph-bet right from the beginning”. After completing an economics degree at Haifa University, he worked for the Bank of Israel.
“I never missed out on anything,” he says, before leaving for a hydrotherapy session. “I have a wonderful wife and children. I didn’t let my injury hold me back.”
Erenlib, meanwhile, expresses frustration at negative portrayals of the Israeli army. “[The enemy] wants to kill us. Look at the stabbings, look at the explosives they have put in shopping centres. The army is the most important thing for Israel. Without it, Israel would not exist. Sometimes you need to pay the price.”
I never missed out. I didn’t let my injury hold me back’