When 19-year-old American Izzy Ezagui joined the Israel Defense Forces, he wanted to do whatever he could to keep Israel safe and strong, the motivation of many other idealistic young Jewish men and women. When he volunteered, he had no idea how exceptionally life-changing his military experience would be.
Ezagui’s family became religiously observant when he was 8 years old, and it was then that he started learning about Jewish history. His growing identification with the Jewish people and homeland –his people, his homeland – fueled his determination to do whatever he could to make sure that Israel, and by extension the Jewish people, would never again be vulnerable.
Ezagui graphically describes in “Disarmed” the mortar attack on his unit at the Gaza border, causing the amputation of his dominant left arm above the elbow, making a reattachment impossible. We accompany him on long months of grueling rehab, and we share his frustration and anger – and cheer for him – as he struggles back to combat. His acceptance as a one-armed sharpshooter in the elite and dangerous special forces – believed the only one in the world – are a triumph of tenacity and grit.
That brave struggle would have been a fully satisfying page-turner, delivering a thrilling climax to an inspiring autobiography. However, this is not the expected heartbreaking tale with a typical happy ending.
Ezagui goes deeper, revealing his plaguing phantom physical pain and, at the same time, real emotional struggles. His search for love, his anguish over serious family troubles, his dependence on painkillers, and his fear that his life had already peaked by the time he was 21 years old are some of the issues Ezagui weaves into his story with brutal honesty and wry humor.
“Disarmed” is a first-person roller-coaster ride of challenges, testing Ezagui’s amazing will and resilience. This candid book is perfectly subtitled, “Unconventional lessons from the world’s only one-armed special forces sharpshooter.” It’s unconventional, to be sure, and, on many levels, disarming.
Izzy Ezagui presents “Disarmed” at the Book Festival 3:30 p.m. Nov. 4.