Three generations of one family who paid a price to protect Israel

Edan Kleiman, who was paralysed by Hamas, is now the chairman of Beit Halochem


Edan Klaiman

When Edan Kleiman was only three weeks old, his father, Arye, was the only member of his unit to survive an Egyptian ambush during the Yom Kippur War, though he was shot in his left shoulder. Nearly 20 years later, in 1992, Edan would also be shot in his left shoulder with the same weapon, a Kalashnikov AK-47, fighting Hamas in Khan Younis in Gaza.

Edan’s grandfather, Rudolf Katzenstein, a member of the Haganah, the Zionist paramilitary organisation that operated throughout Mandatory Palestine, was killed in action just five days before the creation of Israel.

Edan says he was raised in a “very Zionist and patriotic family” and was “surrounded by war stories” and talk of “what it means to fight for my country”. Even his high school, Rene Cassin in Jerusalem, became well known in the 1990s when six graduates from a single year were killed on reserve military duty.

“Patriotism is in my family, my working place, among my friends and community; it is something we feel very deeply in our soul,” says Edan. It felt only “natural” that at 18 he would serve in an IDF combat unit as part of the Givati Brigade and, in 1992, he was shot by Hamas terrorists, causing him to be paralysed from the chest down and forever confined to a wheelchair.

For some time after being shot Edan thought his life “was over”. The thought of never being able to have children was “too much to bear”. In hospital he was visited by representatives of Beit Halochem (House of Warriors in Hebrew), the Israeli wounded and disabled veterans’ rehabilitation charity to which Edan now says he owes his life.

On his first visit to one of the charity’s rehabilitation centres Edan saw a paraplegic veteran “with a newborn baby on his knees” and knew it “was far from the end”. Edan, 50, now has two children of his own. He joined the charity as a member and is now, more than 30 years later, its chairman.

Beit Halochem applies a holistic approach to its rehabilitation programmes for disabled veterans, with  physical, psychological and occupational programmes tailor made for each. From buying groceries and coffee in waiting rooms for family members to organising birthdays and bat mitzvahs for members’ children, to overseeing the establishment of PTSD clinics within hospitals and training courses at universities throughout Israel, Beit Halochem ensures “there is life after injury”.

Edan now visits hospitals to introduce himself and Beit Halochem to newly wounded IDF soldiers, as his predecessors did when he was in hospital. “Barriers go down immediately because I introduce myself as I enter the room as a veteran, shot in the chest, and they understand that I am one of their own. They understand that we are speaking the same language” – that of someone who has “paid everything for democracy”.

Beit Halochem ensures injured veterans are assisted “in every conceivable way” through the three stages of going from “a soldier, to a wounded soldier, then to a wounded veteran for life”. Edan says it deals with “the war after the war”. But the demand for the charity’s services has “exploded” in the six months following October 7.

Because of the scale of the tragedy, Edan said they had to “throw all the plans for 2024 out the window and begin to prepare for what we knew would be coming to Beit Halochem”. At least 16 senior members of his staff returned to active duty. In addition to its 500 employees, the organisation hired another 40 to deal with soldiers wounded since October.

A further 16 Beit Halochem veteran members have died while serving in the past six months, and 21 children and grandchildren of members of Beit Halochem have been killed – while one son of a staff member remains a hostage in Gaza.

The Israeli Ministry of Defence estimates that as a result of the October 7 atrocities and its aftermath up to 7,000 soldiers may have sustained physical injuries and that between 12,000 and 16,000 will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That could mean up to 25,000 new members of Beit Halochem, which before October 7 totalled 52,000 members – more than double the increase the organisation saw after the Yom Kippur War. More than 50 soldiers have permanently lost the use of their legs since the beginning of Operation Swords of Iron, and the number who have been blinded is double the total from the past ten years combined.

Edan says: “Everyone in Israel took this war hard, but wounded soldiers took it harder. When new members join us, we connect them to a new community and look for ways in which they can find literally life-changing purpose.”

Beit Halochem has four centres, in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem, with construction of a fifth in Ashdod now under way. The new site will be designated as Israel’s National Research Institute for PTSD. “To make the miracle of Israel happen, you have to pay a heavy price,” Edan says. “But there is nowhere in the world like this country. We know Israel is worth putting it all on the line for.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive