Only the top Israeli soldiers are selected for officer school and many don’t make the cut. It involves more time in the army, taking additional responsibility and leading younger soldiers. Idan Levy, (19) serving in the IDF Logistical Corps, was a year and a half into his military service when his commanders recommended him for the prestigious course.

On 8th January 2017, three weeks before graduating, Idan’s unit arrived at a Jerusalem lookout point to begin an educational seminar when an Arab terrorist rammed his 10 ton truck into them. Four soldiers were killed in the attack and 13 were seriously injured, including Idan who was clinging to his life.

The four victims

“We were standing in a circle, waiting to meet the educational officer to show us the site,” Idan says, “but I don’t remember much else from that day. Everything I can tell you about what happened is from the news and video tapes which captured the attack.”

CCTV footage showed the terrorist plowing his truck into the soldiers at high speed then turning around to run them over a second time before soldiers and a passing Israeli tour guide shot and killed him at the scene.

Idan sustained a serious head injury, a ripped artery in his throat and severe damage to one of his legs. Unconscious, he was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital for emergency surgery which saved his life.

He remained in the hospital for five months as his leg was rebuilt and he underwent intensive physiotherapy which continues to today. Due to seriousness of his injuries, he was told by the army that he would be discharged from his military service. For Idan, this was devastating news.

“It was a real low point to feel this being taken away,” he said. “I had dreamed about serving as an officer for years. My maternal grandparents and paternal great grandparents moved to Israel generations ago to escape persecution.

There was one sentence he would say over and over, which I really held onto. “God only challenges those who can handle it.”

“My choice to serve as an officer was an essential part of who I was. I wasn’t about to let it go. I told them I wasn’t accepting their decision and refused to listen very time they brought it up. After a few weeks I think they understood how important it was for me to serve my country.”

Fighting back to recovery

Convincing the army was his first victory. Now he needed to muster the strength to recover. Inspiration came from Idan’s hospital roommate. “There was one sentence he would say over and over, which I really held onto. ‘God only challenges those who can handle it.’

“I grew up with a belief in God and we had a strong Jewish culture at home. I started to find strength in recognizing that there was a purpose to my life, my recovery and in turn my motivation to go back to service grew stronger by the day.”

Idan was also inspired by an impromptu hospital visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It was a huge surprise,” Idan says. “He asked about my injuries, how I was feeling and also how I felt about returning to the army. He gave me a lot encouragement.”

Israeli PM visiting Idan

Two weeks later, he convinced the hospital to let him check out for the day to attend the graduation of his officers’ course. Accompanied by his parents and friends he took his place in an emotional ceremony in the presence of a senior IDF general with three seats left empty as a tribute for the soldiers killed in the attack. The fourth fatality had been an instructor.

“We received our pins and there were long hugs between us all,” Idan recalls, “Despite what had happened, we wanted above all else to finish the course together.”

New appreciation for life

“I realized then how grateful I am to be simply alive. In the hospital I saw people with no arms and legs and I gained a new appreciation for life.”

The day Idan came home from hospital dozens of family members and friends were waiting to greet him. “They have played a huge part in helping me to recover. The first holiday after I came out of hospital was Pesach. On Seder night I was sitting around the table with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins and I remember thinking to myself that a loving family is the most wonderful thing a person can have.”

Idan is an only child, which made his recovery even more meaningful for his family. “Sometimes my mom just hugs me for no reason. I think she’s just so happy I’m alive.”

Thinking positive

He has maintained a close connection to the other soldiers injured in the attack, some of whom still suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. “It helps to speak about the attack,” he says. “We help each other.”

“I am optimistic, my philosophy on life now is really just about looking for the good. The ability to walk and talk. everything is really a gift. I can honestly say that I barely find myself feeling sad.”

First Lieutenant, Idan Levy

Now with the rank of First Lieutenant, Idan Levy realized his dream at an induction ceremony at the Western Wall. He is back in uniform proudly serving as an officer in the IDF Logistics corps, with responsibilities for organizing reserve troops training. With eight soldiers under his command, he has much life wisdom to offer.

“I share with my soldiers the things that I have taken from my experience,” he says. “It taught me how you can get over things, not let them get you down, the importance of getting up again and fighting back.”

“I have learned to always smile at life, to look at what you have and to appreciate everything in your life.”