Israeli soldier gravely injured in Oct. 7 terror attack finds new faith, offers hope to others - Living Strong Television Network

Recalling the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel — nearly six months ago now — IDF soldier Shalom Shitrit, 20, stood on one leg with crutches and addressed over 1,200 people at The Armon Hotel & Conference in Stamford, Connecticut, on March 2, 2024, to reveal what happened to him.

“I had no idea that the next few minutes were going to change my life, the lives of the people of Israel, and the life of every Jew,” he told the assembled crowd, in part.

He went on to describe a horrific series of events — and how he’s finally arrived at a place of hope as he moves forward without so many others whose lives were cruelly taken by terrorists.

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Shitrit told Fox News Digital in a couple of phone interviews that nearly losing his life on Oct. 7 has strengthened his faith. He spoke from Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv in Israel, where he’s still undergoing therapy after losing his leg in the attack.

He said he grew up in a religious Jewish home, but for the last three years, he’d not been keeping the Shabbat. After Oct. 7, he felt a closer connection to God and started observing Shabbat again, he said.

“If you live in emunah (Hebrew for ‘faith’), it’s helping you … Any time you don’t [have answers] to questions … I say to myself, it’s for the good,” he said. “I really believe in that. I live that.”

Shitrit described what it was like to be stationed in southern Israel, just 200 meters from the Gaza border, on that fateful day. (In phone interviews, he was assisted by a friend who translated parts of his comments.)

The name of Shitrit’s brigade in English is “the protectors of Kibbutz Be’eri,” a close-knit agricultural community in the Negev desert known as a peace kibbutz.

It was home to — as just one example — Vivian Silver, a 74-year-old grandmother who habitually drove sick Palestinians from Gaza to Jerusalem so they could receive appropriate medical care. Hamas terrorists murdered her and over 130 other Be’eri residents.

They also kidnapped 29 of the approximately 1,108 people who lived there, according to The Times of Israel — many of whom dedicated their lives to helping Palestinians, as Silver did.

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All told, about 1,200 people were murdered in Israel that day, according to multiple reports. Kibbutz Be’eri was one of the places most gravely affected.

Shitrit had been patrolling outside his base that morning, where 25 other soldiers were stationed, he said. At 6:10 a.m., he said, he started receiving text messages about a possible terror attack in Israel, and half an hour later, he heard rockets going off overhead.

He and his team found shelter in a familiar safety area along the border.

Shitrit’s commander, Tomer Barak, pointed to where he spotted a terrorist. Shitrit opened his mortar and ran toward the area.

He told Fox News Digital that as he turned a corner, he came face to face with terrorists.

“I saw two terrorists right in front of my face, one meter between us. In that moment, I just opened fire. I killed them both, not before one of them managed to shoot my right leg.”

Shitrit dropped to the ground and called out to his friends for help, hoping to get a tourniquet — but they were all fighting in battle. About an hour and a half later, he said, he heard shouts in Arabic and gunshots.

Shitrit remembered saying to himself, “If I stay, the terrorists [might] find me and [will] want to kill me.”

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So, lying in a pool of blood, he cupped his hands and smeared blood all over his face and clothing so it would appear as if he’d been killed.

He kept a tight grip on his gun the entire time, peering through the magnifier. Shitrit shot and killed an unsuspecting terrorist as he walked past him.

Getting up on one leg, Shitrit hid by the side of a wall. When he saw a grenade hurling toward his commander, Barak, and a fellow soldier, Sagiv Cohen, he screamed to warn them — but with the gunfire going off, they couldn’t escape. Only Cohen lived through that explosion.

Fourteen soldiers in Shitrit’s unit, who were all as close as brothers, were killed — and five, including Shitrit and Cohen, were injured, Shitrit told Fox News Digital.

Shitrit was one of 11 survivors.

Cohen and Shitrit shielded their eyes from shrapnel as they crawled under an army vehicle. Shitrit remembered how the sand felt like bullets against his skin. He told Fox News Digital, “I just closed my eyes. I was bleeding nonstop. I said my goodbyes.”

From underneath the car, Cohen saved their lives by fatally shooting two terrorists.

Shitrit and Cohen helped each other tie tourniquets and took bullets from their friends’ guns who had been killed. They screamed for help over a radio. About half an hour later, an armed vehicle arrived.

Profusely bleeding but still conscious, Shitrit remembered getting into the tank with his friend. Shortly afterward, he lost consciousness — for a full week.

Shitrit woke up heavily sedated at Soroka Medical Center, where he described experiencing horrific symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He kept imagining there were terrorists near him, and he was so traumatized he couldn’t sleep for four days.

Shitrit started hallucinating because of the medication he was taking. He requested to be taken off it when he was transferred to Sheba Medical Center — and was able to sleep through the night again.

His leg was amputated — he underwent six surgeries, he said.

At Sheba, Shitrit met with some of the released hostages who had been abducted from the Supernova music festival, including 21-year-old French-Israeli woman Mia Schem, who was shot in her arm, and Maya Regev, 21, and her brother, Itay Regev, 19, who were both shot in their legs.

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(Of the approximately 250 people who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Israel on Oct. 7, more than 40 were music festival attendees — mostly young people in their teens and 20s who had been at the Supernova music festival, according to multiple reports.)

Shitrit observed that while the hostages seemed strong, they were likely suffering emotionally.

He said, “They radiate strength, but you can see that they went through something … They want to speak about it in the media and [share] their stories about what Hamas did, but you see from their faces that they experienced grave trauma … A lot of them have signs of PTSD. They can’t sit calmly; they’re agitated.”

He added, “We need to be there for these people.”

For his own rehabilitative therapy, Shitrit goes to a treatment center for wounded IDF soldiers in Kiryat Ono, Israel, which is associated with the nonprofit organization Belev Echad — which means “One Heart” in Hebrew. Belev Echad’s headquarters are in New York, but its location in Israel is a healing refuge for IDF soldiers who are recovering from physical and emotional trauma.

Rabbi Uriel Vigler, founder of Bel Echad, said the soldiers mainly come to the house to be in the company of each other because “it’s like the biggest form of therapy that there is.”

He said that when a soldier looks into the eyes of a fellow warrior, “only they can understand each other’s pain, only they can understand what they have gone through — and [only they can know] the scenes of devastation they have seen together.”

Since Oct. 7, there are about 12,000 wounded soldiers, 1,500 of whom are being cared for at Belev Echad, the rabbi said.

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Eight treatment rooms, such as one for occupational therapy and another for physical rehabilitation, were quickly built to accommodate their needs. The facility is also equipped with a gym, martial arts room, and pool for hydrotherapy sessions, Vigler said.

The center offers meals as well as physical, spiritual and psychological help. Staff members at Belev Echad, including a trainer who was also shot in his legs, are wounded soldiers themselves, so they can relate to the patients they care for on a personal level, he also said.

Despite the tremendous pain the soldiers are in, “they’re happy to be alive, so happy to be with us,” said Vigler. “You don’t get depressed spending time with them. You actually get inspired.”

Shitrit frequently visits with fellow soldiers at Shaba and Belev Echad.

The young soldier started an initiative called Kamim Mehadash, which means “rise again” in Hebrew. He arranges for bags of necessities, like food, shampoo and headphones, to be brought to soldiers on army bases.

Shitrit also speaks to other survivors in Israel to inspire uplift them.

He’s also flown to the U.S. to give speeches in New York City, Boston, Connecticut and elsewhere.

Recently, he told the audience in Stamford, Connecticut, that living through the tragedy of Oct. 7 taught him the importance of unity, especially in light of the political and religious divisions in Israel before the war.

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“Despite all the pain that I endured, no matter how scary it was to be an inch from death, I am honored to give of myself, and to sacrifice my right leg for the sake of unity among the Jewish people,” he said.

“We are all one … Hug your Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Robin Meyerson, founder and director of the Arizona chapter of Project Inspire, a Jewish nonprofit organization that invited Shitrit to speak in Connecticut, said, “I was in the audience … You could hear a pin drop while he spoke. People were crying, and then they were cheering.”

Regarding the Americans who support Israel from afar, and those who visit Israel as well to volunteer, Shitrit told Fox News Digital, “I want to say thank you … We see American people coming all the way to Israel all the time, and it’s very, very heartwarming.”

He added, “I don’t have words.”

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