“Beit Halochem was the most important place in my physical and mental rehabilitation process.”
My name is Dotan Meishar, I’m 51 years old, the father of three sons. I grew up in a kibbutz in the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I remember my youth as a very happy time, spending hours hiking in nature and long runs in the valley fields. At the age of twenty-one, during my service in the Naval Commando unit, I lost my right leg.
My whole life was suddenly turned upside down in a second – from a young, strong guy, a fighter soldier serving in one of the most elite combat units in the IDF, I became disabled.
I was a person with a strong mental resilience, feeling I was capable of doing everything – and then, on long journeys I would ask myself if I would ever be able to do the simplest things; if I would be able to walk a few steps at all. Under this new situation, I realized I had two choices: A. to think that my life is over, to cry over my bitter fate and live a long and tormented life with a sense of sacrifice, asking “How and why did this happen to me?”; or B. Find a way to move on to another life. A full, meaningful and happy life.
The first option was not an option at all for me. I remember that after I started processing my new condition, I did not allow myself to sink into depression for one moment. I chose the second option – I was reborn after I was so close to losing my life.
After spending a year in hospitals, I arrived at Beit Halochem Tel Aviv, which was the most important place in my physical and mental rehabilitation process. Beit Halochem quickly became a second home for me, where I met disabled people in my situation, I drew energy and was inspired by them, which enabled me to live a full and happy life even without a leg.
Practicing sports has been a significant component of my rehabilitation. Very quickly, I started practicing powerlifting. The connection was very natural because it bolstered my strengths, and the loss of a leg had no meaning. Soon enough the sport became from rehabilitative to competitive.
Just two years after the injury I participated in the Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 and later in Atlanta in 1996. The future was rosy; the goal was a medal at the next Olympics. However, I exhausted powerlifting and was not willing to go on just for a medal when I did not have enough passion and love for what I was doing.
The reason for the change was wheelchair basketball. I discovered a most powerful and attractive sports discipline, in contrast to what I had ever imagined.
I have been playing for the Israeli national wheelchair basketball team since 1999 until today, despite my adult age. I participated in 11 European Championships, two World Championships and won sixth place at the Beijing Olympic Games. In addition, I participated in dozens of official EuroLeague tournaments in Europe as a member of the Beit Halochem wheelchair basketball team.
In 2005, I also started coaching in the Beit Halochem centers, to give the young generation of veterans motivation, love for the game, and reveal to them a magical world that is very different from what it seems. Unfortunately, in Israel, many soldiers became disabled veterans at a young age, like me.
Beit Halochem centers are well skilled and experienced and know how to meet the needs of people who at a young age find themselves in such a difficult and complex situation. Beit Halochem is a warm, safe place, a real second home; it gives us a sense of belonging where disabled veterans are not alone; they always have someone to talk to and share, get inspiration from the veterans about resilience and mental power, to live a healthy life in body and mind.
For me, sports played a major and most significant role in my rehabilitation process. Sports allowed me to fulfill dreams that contributed greatly to my sense of satisfaction and self-confidence. I am proud to see that my life journey, my attitude to life and achievements in sports, have become a source of inspiration for young people.
I am happy that I can continue to help other disabled veterans and I am truly grateful for all that Beit Halochem has given me and contributed so much to my personal growth, allowing me to reinvent myself since my injury and make my dreams a reality.