This Chanukah, Boys Town Jerusalem will celebrate one more miracle as Grade 11 Boys Town Jerusalem student Oz Attal will be taking an active role in the Chanukah celebrations. Just over three years ago, then 12-year-old Oz was hit and run over by a bus as he was coming home from Day Camp. The bright, popular Boys Town Jerusalem student sustained severe head injuries as well as serious internal injuries, and he lingered in a coma for six weeks. The moment Oz miraculously regained consciousness; he began an intense, painstaking struggle to regain full independence. Today, using a walker for support, 16-year-old Oz (Hebrew for “strength”) has rejoined his class at Boys Town. Although plagued by daunting cognitive and physical difficulties, Oz has been surrounded by his classmates and teachers in a sea of love and support.

“There wasn’t a day that Boys Town wasn’t there for Oz,” recalls his mother Yael. “Rabbi Meir Linchner, Dean of Students, and Principal Rabbi Elimelech Yaakov were at our side in the hospital almost immediately after the accident. Once Oz was conscious, the school sent a steady flow of classmates to visit him regularly. Even when Oz entered the Alyn Pediatric Rehabilitation Center for what would become nearly a three-year stay, several teachers voluntarily came each week to tutor him. Although he could barely communicate, Oz clearly felt strong and loved.”

“There wasn’t a day that Boys Town Jerusalem wasn’t there for Oz”

Road to Recovery

Watching Oz dart through Boys Town’s halls – and stairs, Yael Attal notes that two years ago doctors declared that Oz would never walk again. Although Oz needs a walker for support, he cuts himself no slack when heading indoors or outdoors with his class. “With Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), no one can know the extent of the permanent injury,” Yael says. “For now, Oz’s left side is weak, and his hand shakes. Sadly, he has no long-term memory and no control over what he may say, yet he understands the academic material quite well. Most crucial, he has iron motivation.”

Last year, Oz began coming to Boys Town several hours a week, accompanied by his mother. At the start of the school year, Rabbi Linchner informed Yael that for the days that Oz is not in treatment at Alyn Hospital, he can return to his 11th grade class where Rabbi Linchner himself is the main instructor. The classroom was then moved to a lower floor to accommodate Oz. “At first I stayed at Oz’s side in class and also helped him maneuver his way through the halls between classes,” Yael explains. “Very soon, Rabbi Linchner informed me that BTJ had made arrangements for a ‘shadow’ to accompany Oz for the year and relieve me.” (At home, Oz’s seven siblings await her.)

Tears filled Oz’s eyes when he first took his seat in class, Rabbi Linchner recalled. “His 36 classmates received him with love and extreme patience. They are now learning an invaluable lesson in how to give of themselves.”

Recently the entire class joined Oz in a moment of triumph when he pedaled to the finish line of Alyn Hospital’s “Wheels of Love” bike-a-thon. Waving signs that said, “Oz the King!” his BTJ classmates and teachers heartily cheered the heroic student.

Chanukah is a time to give thanks for miracles in days of old and in our own time, explains Rabbi Meir Linchner. “Oz has been blessed with an extraordinary family and a fierce will to live. For us, his teachers and classmates, it’s an honour to be a part of the miracle of Oz’s life.”

© 2015 Canadian Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem.