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Back to school… as Israeli hero

Teen left shelter to save man’s life as rockets rained down

    Arina accepts a scholarship from Ben Gurion University’s president Rivka Carmi, given in recognition of bravery
    Arina accepts a scholarship from Ben Gurion University’s president Rivka Carmi, given in recognition of bravery

    When 17-year-old Arina Shestopolov Censor went back to school last week, nobody needed to ask what she did this summer - as Israel's new national heroine the whole country knows.

    Seconds after Grad missiles fired by Gaza terrorists fell close to her Beersheba home on August 20, she ventured out of a bomb shelter and saved a man's life.

    It was a bloody night in the Arthur Rupin district of Beersheba. Five people were injured, and one of them, 38-year-old Yossi Shushan, died. "We went into the public shelter and started to hear booms. The sixth was very close and we thought our home was damaged so my father ran out of the shelter to see," Arina recalls.

    Her father Tslil Censor saw a sight more horrific than he imagined: two injured men on the ground. Nati Hagshor, 24, seemed to be dead, so he focused his efforts on Lior George, also 24, whose legs were bleeding.

    Mr Censor has no medical training but has taught himself techniques for emergency situations. He controlled Mr George's bleeding until the ambulance arrived.

    Arina read a book about emergency scenarios when she was 12

    Arina left the shelter while her father was treating Mr George, and saw Mr Hagshor open his eyes. Where his right leg should have been, there was a pool of about five pints of blood, which was growing by the second; his left leg was injured. Fires ignited by the rockets were burning nearby. Arina ran to her house to fetch material and made tourniquets. The first two tourniquets she tried did not stop the bleeding, but the third did, keeping him alive for the vital minutes while an ambulance was on the way. "I couldn't believe it," comments Mr George in a telephone interview from his rehabilitation centre, where he is on the road to a full recovery. "She's so young but was so calm and didn't stress - she just got on with what she was doing."

    Arina has no medical training. When she was 12, her father bought her a book about emergency scenarios. "I told him I don't want it, but he said it's important and I read it aged 12. I've no idea how, but I just remembered the pictures as if I read it yesterday," she says.

    In the thick of the moment she did not feel emotion but that afterwards the experience gave rise to lots of feelings, and she "cried like a baby".

    A few days later she went to visit Mr Hagshor in hospital. "I just felt happiness that he's alive, and when I saw for myself that he is my heart was beating like crazy. He said thank you and that he doesn't know what more to say."

    After several operations, Mr Hagshor is stable and, if all goes according to plan, will soon start rehabilitation. Arina will stay in contact with him, as "he's like my brother now".

    When the rector and president at Arina's local university, Ben Gurion University, heard of her bravery, they decided to award her a full scholarship for whatever degree programme she chooses, and laid on a special award ceremony last week.

    Until now, the institution only ever awarded scholarships based on academic achievement or financial need. "It is the first time that the university has ever given this kind of scholarship to someone, and we have given it in recognition of bravery under fire and original thinking under such difficult conditions," said university president Rivka Carmi.

    "These are the kinds of traits that we believe are exceptional and worthy of recognition."

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