Surprising, inspiring, or just plain crazy? Decide for yourself

by | Aug 10, 2018 | Uncategorized

Thursday, September 6, 6 pm, Sandler Family Campus 

“Maybe one day when I get older, I will move to Israel and join the IDF.”

We’ve all thought about it. Whether it was daydreaming for a split second or two in class at Hebrew Academy (like me), at Sunday school, or even while sitting around the family dinner table. Even with the best intentions, reality eventually gets in the way, and very few actually make it to Israel.

Izzy Ezagui, however, was one of those brave foreigners who knew his place was in the Israeli army. Growing up in a religious Jewish community in Miami, Florida, he learned the history of the Jewish people and felt passionate about protecting Israel. Interacting with soldiers on a Birthright trip in 2006 convinced Ezagui that he could actually do it. Approximately 2,800 lone soldiers (servicemen or women without immediate family in Israel) currently serve in the IDF.

“Why did I choose the Israeli military over the US armed forces?” Izzy writes in his book Disarmed: Unconventional Lessons from the World’s Only One-Armed Special Forces Sharpshooter, “both countries are on the same frontline of the war against terror, but Israel is closer.” He couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore as Israel’s neighbors threatened to obliterate her every day.

In December 2008, Hamas again started firing rockets from Gaza, and again, Israel was forced to protect her citizens. Ezagui and his unit were called up to the frontlines, and finally he was able to do what he had dreamed of, protect Israel. On January 8, 2009 as his unit was waiting for orders in a tent less than one mile from Gaza, he picked up the phone and contemplated calling his mother to say he was closer to Gaza than he had previously let on, as any good son would do to keep her from worrying. Before he could do so, a rocket hit his tent, severing his left arm, leading to amputation of the arm.

While some might call it surprising, inspiring, or just plain crazy, almost immediately, Ezagui wanted to know how he could return to combat. He knew he was not finished fighting for Israel—he just had to convince the IDF that it was a good idea.

A year and a half later, after passing all of the physical tests required by the IDF including climbing ropes, jumping walls, and loading his rifle within seconds (the test he struggled with the most without a second hand to stabilize the rifle), Ezagui was not only reinstated into the IDF, but he was given command of his own unit.

Ezagui completed his active-duty service in 2011 and remains in the IDF reserves today, as the world’s only onearmed sharp shooter. Ezagui will speak at United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Campaign Kickoff as the community gathers to plan how to continue to support Israel— whether from the frontlines, or from right here in Tidewater.

*of blessed memory

— Melissa Eichelbaum

Melissa Eichelbaum, assistant director, Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, may be reached at 757-965-6107 or