Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 caught Maor Dahan in the middle of his economics and accounting exams at Bar-Ilan University. The 2nd-year undergrad had just finished the first five when he received an emergency call-up (Tzav 8) to IDF reserve duty near Gaza. Dahan, a medic, spent the ensuing weeks attached to an armored corps unit. "In the past five years, I have fought in Gaza three different times," notes the 25-year-old who directed the Kfir Brigade's field medical station during his regular military service. More recently based in Kibbutz Negba near Ashkelon, he has been on constant standby to treat injuries and also took part in secret missions in the Gaza Strip. Ironically, the worst casualty he treated was a soldier who sustained head injuries while running for shelter during a siren.
But that was not the case during Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-9, when a mortar exploded in his tent. Just minutes before, Dahan had left the tent and when he returned, he saw his bed overturned and covered with shrapnel. "It was a real miracle," he declares. His friend, a lone soldier from the US, was not as lucky. He lost his left arm. Dahan treated him and he says that "the experience pushed me to be more professional in my work and in training other medics, in conducting refresher courses and updating medical equipment."
Donning fatigues, an M16, sunglasses and a broad smile, Dahan received a hero's welcome when he recently stopped in at BIU during a one-day furlough. Unshaved and hair uncombed, he was embraced by friends and colleagues in the Department of External Relations, where he is a student worker. "It's great to return here. I missed you all," he affirms. "The University has been extremely accommodating and is providing an extra exam session in the fall for soldiers who were called up." Bar-Ilan University is additionally offering scholarships to reservists who served in Gaza.
Dahan was touched by the "amazing Kibbutz hospitality down south – they gave us food and did our laundry" and the genuine concern and outpouring of support that people demonstrated. "One of the nicest things is to see Am Yisrael united," he underscores.
In the army for three consecutive weeks, Dahan says "I miss being home in Safed for Shabbat and my parents and siblings were worried, of course." He relays that he opted to enroll at BIU after his sister studied here (LLB, LLM) and he specifically sought a university rooted in Jewish tradition and values. With his summer plans abruptly changed ("I was planning on traveling to Europe after my exams…"), he was, at this writing, looking forward to a proper completion of the Operation "so we don't have to go into Gaza every two years" and prays "that every IDF soldier returns home safely."
In Hebrew, the word “maor” means something that “lights the sky, sun or moon”. Our Maor most certainly brings the ‘light’ with him, as do the hundreds of BIU students who bravely put themselves in the way of danger in order to help bring security to the State of Israel.