Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

The Israeli World Champion

Itay Arneliv is the beautiful Israeli. He is also an invincible human being. Itay, a strikingly handsome young man, grew up in the Israeli city of Petah Tikvah, and as an adolescent he also played for the local professional basketball team.

In the army, Itay served as an officer in an elite unit, and distinguished himself in battle during the Second Lebanon War. Later on, in the summer of 2007, Itay and his unit entered the city of Nablus in the West Bank for a special operation. They were ambushed, and the alley that they entered was booby trapped. As a result, Itay lost a leg and an arm on the spot, and yet amazingly, he maintained his consciousness, and for the next several minutes he kept on calling out his soldiers’ names over the radio, desperately trying to make sure that they are all safe and sound.

Once in hospital, Itay was immediately taken to the ICU. It was there that he finally lost consciousness, and remained unconscious for the next two months.

During that time, the doctors told Itay’s parents that their son’s chances of survival are somewhere between three and five percent. And when Itay finally regained consciousness, after two months of being closer to death than to life, he found out that in addition to having lost one of his legs and one of his arms immediately on the battlefield, he also lost his second leg while in hospital.

Both of Itay’s legs were now amputated, and so he was now left with only one arm.

In addition to all that, Itay’s doctors assertively conveyed to him that he will never be able to walk again, nor live outside a medical facility. Itay compassionately smiled at his doctors, and started his long road to personal recovery and independence. At first, his doctors felt sorry for him. They felt that he was entrapped in some tragic and self-destructive mode of denial, that he was delusional and mentally unwell.

But six months later, with the aid of two prosthesis legs, an unbreakable will-power and a superhuman pain tolerance level, Itay achieved the unachievable. Against all odds, and against his doctors’ medical consensus around him, Itay started walking again.

Three months after that, Itay decided to rejoin the IDF, and served his country once more as a distinguished and capable officer. He even went back to serve in Nablus, the very place in which he lost his legs and arm in the first place.

After all that, Itay decided that it is now time for him to grow and evolve in other areas of life as well. He enrolled in college, and with one arm and no legs completed a degree in biology and life-sciences. Following his academic studies, Itay’s next project was to become very fit, and find a sport in which he could compete globally on the international level, and become a world champion. He chose tennis.


When Itay plays tennis, he moves around the court in his wheel chair, and his tennis racket is taped and glued to his one and only arm so that he doesn’t drop his racket in the intensity of the exchange with his opponent. Watching Itay play tennis is truly a sight to behold. It captures his boundless inner fortitude, and the tenacity and invincibility of his soul.

Today Itay is ranked number five in the world in tennis for the disabled, and next month he will be representing Israel in the Paralympic Games (the Olympic Games for the disabled). Itay’s goal is to come back home to Israel with an Olympic medal next month.

Itay is a very handsome young man, and when he speaks his face lights up and highlights his incredible will-to-life and love of life. When asked in a recent interview what his plans are for the next stage in his life, after the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro come to an end next month, Itay expressed his aspiration to enroll in a Pre-Med program at an Israeli university.

And with regard to his long-term plans, Itay stated in the same interview that his ultimate goal for the rest of his life is “To engage in some endeavor that has to do with saving lives,” or alternatively – “To do something which has to do with the security and protection of the State of Israel.”

We all wish Itay much success in the coming Paralympic Games, and we hope that he will win a medal for Israel. But ultimately the games don’t really matter. They are secondary at most. For Itay is already an unrivalled world champion and a gold medalist in every worthy and possible way. We salute Itay as an exemplary human being, and look forward to seeing him realize his ultimate life’s goal, namely – to bring healing to those less fortunate than he is, to people who are not nearly as intact, whole and complete as he is.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sessler


Post a comment