Danny Hakim
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At Hanukkah, a tale of light and near-death

What do you tell a 9-year-old with two broken legs and a fractured pelvis? You teach him that he's a hero
Danny Hakim with the Heroes Circle newest member. (Courtesy)
Danny Hakim with the Heroes Circle newest member. (Courtesy)

A few days ago, a neighbor called to tell me that tragedy had struck a member of her former synagogue in Cape Town while here on her first visit to Israel. The woman had come to celebrate her son’s bar mitzvah and her youngest son had been in a freak accident.

“Her nine-year-old boy was hit by a car in the parking lot while exiting a toy store,” she explained. “The boy’s body was crushed, his legs caught under the wheel and they had to get people to lift the car off his body.”

The boy lay in the hospital, filled with drugs, screaming in pain before his operation. My neighbor had just come from visiting the mother when she called me. “I heard the poor boy screeching in agony. Maybe you can visit him and tell him something that would relieve his pain?“

What do you say to a 9-year-old boy who gets hit by a car and breaks two legs and a pelvis? How do you explain to a young boy who is suffering intolerable pain and has nightmares of people yelling to get the car off his crushed body? What do you say to a mother who brings her family to Israel for the first time, to celebrate a son’s bar mitzvah and nearly loses a child in a freak accident?

How do you explain the miracle of Israel to Orthodox Jews from abroad who have come to Israel to identify with their homeland and their people? How do you feel the miracle of Hanukkah when you are traumatized in a hospital in a foreign country with a foreign language, alone with a child writhing in pain?

And where is the miracle to ease a boy’s pain and a mother’s apprehension? A miracle to explain why him, why Israel, and why now, on the eve of celebrating the miracle of Hanukkah?

The first miracle is that this boy is still alive. The doctor who operated on him was, by strange coincidence, one of the witnesses of the accident. He said that if the car had crushed him a few centimeters higher the boy would not have survived.

When I visited this miracle boy in the hospital, it was the day after his leg operation. The doctors could not operate on his cracked pelvis, hoping that it would eventually heal itself. The boy and his mother had no idea what I was doing there. They hadn’t heard of my organization, Kids Kicking Cancer Israel, which helps sick children deal with severe pain issues. My goal was to cheer him up and leave him a few tools to deal with his pain. I found him lying in the hospital bed, both legs in full casts, elevated, his face black and blue, a kippah tilted on his head.

I told the young boy that I have a black belt in karate. His dark eyes brightened in admiration. Then I told him that in karate we use the power of the mind to overcome pain. He listened intently.

“You have the power to do this too.”

I ask him to punch my hand to see how strong he is. His arms are full of energy and he punches me hard a few times. He feels empowered. I demonstrate to him and his mother a special martial arts breathing technique: to breathe in the light and blow out the darkness. We do it together a few times. His face lights up as the pain and itch from his broken body momentarily disappear.

“You did it so well that you will be able to teach this to others,” I tell him.

“And did you know that you are the first South African boy who has joined our Heroes Circle — the elite group of kids who have the power to teach others these healing techniques.” His mother is beaming with gratification. Her miracle boy is smiling with pride. There is no pain for the moment, just light.

A bright light for one young boy during his first trip to Israel on Hanukkah.

Danny Hakim and the newest Hero (courtesy)
Danny Hakim and the newest Heroes Circle member (courtesy)
About the Author
Danny Hakim OAM is a 2 times world karate silver medalist and holds a 7th-degree black belt from Japan. He is the founder of Budo for Peace and chairman of Sport for Social Change. He is a board member of The Azrieli foundation, MWU ( Maccabi World Union), ALLMEP (the Alliance of Middle East peace), and Kids Kicking Cancer. In 2017 he was inducted into the Australian Maccabi Hall of Fame, and in 2019 was the recipient of the Bonei Zion award for Culture, Art, and Sport. In January 2022, he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the international community.
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