“Somewhere I always hoped and believed that a miracle would happen and I’d see again…”
During the First Lebanon War, 20-year-old Dan Layani and his regiment, the 12th Golani Brigade, were positioned above two refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut and were experiencing heavy fire from a Syrian force.
All hell broke loose as the bombardments escalated. Rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank and Sager missiles were being fired at Dan’s company. They received a direct hit.
More and more troops were severely wounded and dying from the assault, including Dan’s best friend Dori. Unfortunately, Dan was hit badly by shrapnel.
“I didn’t understand what had happened. Everything suddenly became dark. I had no sensation throughout my body and was sure I had died,” Layani says. “A few seconds went by, and I began hearing shells falling all around. I realized I had been hit and just lay quietly listening to the whistling sound of the bombs. It was clear to me I had lost my eyesight. I knew that I was severely wounded but alive.
“Eventually a helicopter evacuated me to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. One eye was totally lost and the other had shrapnel in it, which gave the doctors hope that I would see again. This did not happen…,” he notes.
“Before my injury, I had plans and now everything had turned upside-down. I was consumed by self-pity. I was a 20-year-old who was blind,” Layani recalls. “The easiest routines became complex. Going to the bathroom, pouring water into a glass, eating with a knife and fork, things one normally takes for granted were difficult. I had to learn these tasks anew, just like a newborn child.
“After many months of struggling with this, I realized that I needed to move on with my life,” he continues. “I eventually went to Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv. It was here that I found a place where I could spend time with other disabled veterans, who encouraged and supported me in my rehabilitation. I learned to adapt to my new situation, to experience a life of freedom and independence, something I was not sure that I would ever attain.”
Dan went on with his life and started over. He married Sonia in 1986, attended university, wand then successfully completed a Master’s Degree in Social Work.
After living twenty-five years in darkness, Dan underwent a miraculous operation that would grant him sight in one eye and the joy of seeing his wife and four children for the first time.
“The moment the doctors removed the bandages,” he said, “I saw so much light I wanted to scream. I had never seen my wife or children before… My enthusiasm was unbelievable.”
Regrettably the operation turned out to be a mixed blessing for Dan. Six months later he went completely blind again. It was a shattering experience that he managed to overcome with the support of his loving family and Beit Halochem.
Today, Dan is the Assistant to the Chairman of the Beit Halochem in Jerusalem. He visits wounded soldiers at the hospital to support them, gives them encouragement, and lets them know that Beit Halochem will be there to help them — forever.
Cycling has become one of the most popular sports offered at our Beit Halochem centers. Dan has benefited from this program by regularly cycling tandem.