Innovation/Global Risk

Make Meaning: When Tragedy Becomes Triumph (2)

By Shlomo  Maital  


 Daniel Yuval

On Feb. 6, 2010, tragedy struck a family from central Israel, hiking in the snow in the Golan Heights.  The snow obscured signs warning of land mines.  As a result, one of the three children in the family stepped on a mine.  “We threw snowballs and played around for five minutes,” 11-year-old Daniel Yuval said.  “Then I remember taking a step forward and I heard the explosion. For a few minutes I don’t remember much.  My father picked me up.”  Daniel’s leg had been severed by a landmine.   It emerges that there are some 260,000 more landmines in the area. 

   Daniel is a tough, brave kid.  Within a month he walked his first steps.  He allowed his dressings to be changed, painfully, without painkiller.  And he quickly made up the time he lost in school.   After his leg was blown off, he asked his father Guy (who was carefully retracing his steps with Daniel in his arms, to avoid other mines) to stop and re-attach his lost leg.  

   Daniel wrote a letter to all 120 members of  Israel’s Parliament, and launched a high-profile campaign to clean up land mines.  He spoke to Parliament, to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.  A bill is now being promoted, costing $89.4 m., to clean up the land mines.  

   According to anti-mine campaigner Jerry White, founder of the anti-landmine organization Survivor Corps (White himself lost his leg while hiking in the Golan),  “Daniel Yuval is the tipping point where Israelis woke up.” 

   If an 11-year-old can overcome losing his leg, and find meaning in the incident, to work to keep others from the same fate,  surely the rest of us can find meaning in far less painful circumstances. 

   “When I awoke from the surgery at the hospital and saw my amputated right leg,”  he wrote in his letter to Israel’s Knesset members, “I told my mum that I wanted no one else to ever be hurt by a landmine, and that I meant to do something about that.”  And he did. 

    Transforming adversity and depression into meaning is often simply about acting, rather than complaining.  Daniel Yuval did.  We can all learn from him.   And Daniel?  He follows artificial limb technology closely and still dreams of playing football, his main passion.