He lost his mother and three of his siblings in a terror attack, as well as his leg. And yet, 18-year-old Asael Shabo of the settlement of Kedumim recently took part in an international basketball tournament as part of a team comprised of disabled Israelis and Palestinians.
Asael's life took a turn for the worse in June 2002, when he was just nine years old. An armed Palestinian terrorist infiltrated the Shabo family home in the community of Itamar and shot Asael's mother and three of his siblings to death.
Another brother was injured in the attack, and Asael lost one of his legs. A security guard who arrived at the scene of the attack to help the family was killed in the incident as well.
The shocking murder of his family member, and the injury he suffered himself, did not dampen Asael's spirit. Two years after his rehabilitation began, he was acknowledged as a talented swimmer, and now is considered one of Israel's greatest hopes for the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will be held in London.
Asael (L) with Palestinian teammate (Photo: Shaul Golan)
About a year ago, Asael began combining his swimming exercises with basketball training, another sport in which he demonstrated impressive capabilities. His talent led him to the Sal-Gal project, which trains some 500 disabled children and teenagers in wheelchair basketball.
The project was founded about six years ago by Miki Goldenberg, 60, a writer and producer, together with the Peres Center for Peace, and it sees Israelis and Palestinians play alongside each other. Some of the Palestinians were injured in accidents some by IDF fire.
"We want to give disabled people on wheelchairs a different life, a life belt," says Goldenberg.
The Palestinian players on Asael's team come from the town of Beit Jala, near Jerusalem, from where gunmen used to fire at the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo in 2000.
The team's training sessions are held in the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion and in Beit Jala. The players are trained, side by side, by Israeli Tal Ram and Palestinian Salim Atwana.
Several weeks ago, the team traveled to Belgium to take part in an international wheelchair basketball tournament.