Shalom, my name is Eial. This is a story about how making mezuzahs helped save me from a very, very, dark place that is known as combat related PTSD.
Shalom. My name is Eial Ovin. This is a story about how
making mezuzahs helped save me from a very, very dark place
known as combat related PTSD.
On August 2, 2011, I turned 18-years old and like all Israeli men, it was
my time to join the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). I grew up on Kibbutz
Saar in the Galilee where I continue to live and work.
I tried out for and was accepted into Palchan Tzanchanim, the Special
Forces of the Paratroopers. After a year and a half of arduous and
rigorous training, on July 8 th , 2014, Israel began Operation Protective
Edge, an all-out assault against military forces of Hamas
and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip.
It was a methodically slow and bloody 50-day military campaign. The
mission was to destroy military capabilities of an enemy that
challenged the sovereignty of Israel daily. We were specifically
charged with finding and blowing up tunnels in Gaza. My team was in
the worst explosion of the war. My unit lost six of the 69-soldiers who
were killed during Operation Protective Edge including my
commander. Eighteen alone, were injured from our team, some
maimed for life. When this 50-day war ended, I was an emotional
mess. Little did I know that my war against PTSD had just begun.
I always liked the woodworking shop in my kibbutz. As a farm boy, I
felt an affinity with oak and olive woods, as they represent deep roots
to the land. The woodshop became my escape from people and my
pain. The smell of the wood helped me forget the smell of gunpowder.
Still, I was restless. One day, my hands were guided to create a
mezuzah, an odd creation from a “super-secular” kibbutznik who
hardly ever attended services in a synagogue.
Throughout the process, my thoughts drifted to the friends I had lost
in combat. Their memory inspired me to finish one mezuzah after the
other. It became a passion. Perhaps an obsession.
In looking at the final product, time-and-again, I experienced a sense
of serenity. Giving the dead wood a new life as a memorial mezuzah
became my therapy. This historic protective symbol of our people
from death, became a living memorial for my soldiers and my friends
who were killed in action. The profound meaning of the mezuzahs has
a deep therapeutic effect on me which helps me cope with my PTSD.
Making mezuzahs is now my full-time work. Each mezuzah is unique
along with my other Judaica artwork.