12 years ago, 32 year old Dudu Shevy was serving in the Israeli Defense Force when he was paralyzed from the waist down in a non-combat related auto accident. Since that time, he has been in a wheelchair, and had adjusted to seeing everything and everyone from that level. He built a life, fell in love, and at the very end of November, he was married.
The custom in Jewish weddings is for the groom to walk down the aisle and meet the bride, so of course, she and all of their family and guests expected to see the undaunted Devy roll expectantly down the satin runner that ran the length of the aisle and up a few steps to the huppah, or nuptial canopy.
Raucous applause broke out when Devy began to walk down the aisle with the aid of some technology developed in Israel called the Rewalk Robotics exoskeleton system. The Times of Israel describes the technology as follows:
“ReWalk allows independent, controlled walking similar to that of an able-bodied person, as computers and motion sensors do the ‘heavy lifting.’ The system controls movement using subtle changes in center of gravity, mimics natural gait and provides functional walking speed, enabling even paraplegics to move independently — and even to run marathons, as one paralyzed woman did several years ago.”
The device first learns and records the movements of the would-be walker, and then helps the legs move by way of remote control. It has also been used in the United States to assist Wounded Warriors, and each unit costs about $65,000 USD.
Dudu needed a bit of help from his personal trainer, who was literally behind him all the way, but Mr. Shevy made it all the way down the aisle, up the stairs, stood for the ceremony, and after the wedding was over, returned the Rewalk, which had been loaned to him.
Here’s the back story: One day, Dudu was watching the news, and saw the story of the man who developed the Rewalk technology. The inventor himself was paralyzed, and the IDF made it possible for Dudu to practice in secret, so that his debut on his wedding day would be a surprise to all. The Israeli Defense Ministry paid for the 3 months of training that it took for Dudu to pull off the surprise.
“Just walking. It was different, just seeing everyone at eye-level and not chair-level. It was totally different,” Shevy told the Channel 2 News in Israel. “It was really wonderful.” He also said, “People were very moved to see me walking.”
I can’t imagine the joy and surprise of Mr. Shevy’s bride, his family, and the guests. But I do know, with the beginning of Hannukah in just a couple of days, this story in the “Season of Light” should give us all reason to rejoice that our relationship with the Israelis has withstood the unprecedented strain between our leaders, is benefitting our soldiers and theirs, and is giving hope where previously there was none.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner