Israeli Terror Survivor Competes in European Wheelchair Basketball
Asael Shabo is excited as he talks about his participation in the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships taking place from June 26 – July 8. The 19-year-old competed for his first time on Israel’s national wheelchair basketball team in Frankfurt, Germany against several European teams. Although the Israeli men’s team won one game and lost three, the real meaning of success goes beyond winning for Shabo.
“I waited a long time for this moment,” said Shabo in an exclusive interview with Tazpit News Agency. “It’s been a long emotional, physical, and mental journey for me to get to this point.”
When Shabo was nine-years-old, a Palestinian terrorist broke into his family’s home in the Itamar community and murdered his mother and three brothers in a brutal gun attack on June 20, 2002. Asael, who was watching TV together with his five-year-old brother, Avishai, was badly injured while his younger brother was killed in the attack. A sister, Aviya, was also injured.
Following the terrorist attack, Shabo’s right leg had to be amputated and he spent two years in the hospital. Shabo also began intense rehabilitation treatments at the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled (ISCD) in Ramat Gan.
“When I first met Asael, he was a very timid nine-year-old kid,” says Boaz Kramer, the Executive Director of ISCD and a Paralympian himself. “He made very little eye contact and we worked very hard to get him to open up and integrated into the sports program,” explains Kramer.
“Most of the children at our center do not have the same kind of tragic background as Asael – he really had to go through an intense emotional process. Playing sports has been a key rehabilitation tool,” Kramer, 36, told Tazpit News Agency.
“After about five years of intense hard work, Asael made amazing progress. He became a very competitive sports player both in swimming and other sports and frequently represents the sports center on an international level.”
There are currently 2,000 disabled children and adults who are part of the 20 different sport fields at the ISCD, most of which are wheelchair-related activities. Opened in 1960, the ISCD was the first sport center for the disabled in Israel and has treated thousands of children including many victims of terrorist attacks.
On Wednesday, Asael and the Israeli national basketball team will play against Poland in the last game of the European Wheelchair Basketball Championship’s first round of games.
Meanwhile, Asael’s family has been watching him play ball in Germany on the family’s computer via live streaming.
“This is the first time I’ve got to take part in an experience like this,” says Shabo, whose family lives in the community of Kedumim in the Samarian hills. “My dad is a great supporter of me and the sports center has given me the skills to grow and develop. I hope to surprise and inspire everyone who has supported me including those watching above me – my brothers and my mom.”