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April 15, 2022 1:43 pm
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Israeli Para-Athlete, Terror Attack Survivor to Light Torch at Israeli Independence Day Ceremony

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Asael Shabo during an interview with Boomerang Fighting for Israel. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Israeli para-athlete Asael Shabo, who survived a 2002 terrorist attack that killed members of his family, will light one of 12 torches during Israel’s official 74th Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl.

Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sports Hili Trooper made the announcement on Thursday, calling Shabo “a symbol of the victory of the spirit.”

“Out of a big fracture, the loss of a mother and three siblings and a serious injury, he chose to grow,” Trooper added. “Asael is an outstanding athlete, educator and a model for anyone who faces difficulty and insists on winning every day anew.”

Lighting a torch on Independence Day is among the honors awarded to an Israeli citizen, with only a few selected each year.

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Shabo was nine years old when a terrorist infiltrated the Israeli settlement of Itamar in the West Bank in June 2002, and went on a shooting spree in his home, killing his mother and three brothers in front of him. Shabo lost his right left in the attack while his sister, who survived by hiding under her bed, and father faced other injuries.

“All of the sudden you wake up to find out you’ve lost half your family and a leg,” he recalled in 2020. “It’s something that’s very … it shakes your life forever.”

Shabo, who has been a member of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan since he was eight, found an escape following the attack in swimming, and went on to represent Israel in international swimming competitions. He then turned his attention to wheelchair basketball, becoming part of Israel’s national team. Now living in Ramat Gan, Shabo also coaches young people with disabilities.

The Israel Sport Center for the Disabled said on Thursday, “This is a great and immense honor and deserving of Asael, acknowledging the huge journey he has made in greatness of soul and inconceivable powers from the bottom to the summit.”

Shabo, who had a baby boy three weeks ago, said he is honored to “represent the victims of terrorism, people who sacrificed their bodies and souls for the country.” He noted, “The beacon for me is the greatest gratitude possible. It is the greatest evening in the country. To light a beacon on the eve of independence is to put another mark on our strengths as a people and country.”

The chairman of the Israel Disabled Sports Association, Ehud Ratzabi, said about Shabo, “I am convinced that he will serve as a beacon for many young people, both in striving for excellence and in his values ​​as a person.”

The Independence Day ceremony is set to take place on May 4. Others set to light torches include the IDF’s Lieutenant Hadar Cohen, while the Diaspora beacon will be lit by Elizabeth Sherstok, a member of the Jewish community in Ukraine.

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