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One Step Ahead

Shlomi Gil

A year after Professor David Kazhdan was knocked off the road by a hit-and-run semitrailer, he’s on his feet again, despite the dismal prognosis of the medical team who worked furiously to stabilize him. Launching a headstrong battle to get his life back, the mathematical genius learned about the resilience of the human spirit.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Exactly a year ago, on a sunny fall Sunday of October 6th, Israel Prize winner Professor David Kazhdan was on the last stretch of a 44-mile bike route together with his son Eli Kazhdan — CityBook CEO and former ministerial aide. Father and son had been riding together for years, and this morning’s route from Jerusalem to Beit Shemesh and back was just a practice for an upcoming 50-mile cycling competition. Sunday morning is always a good time for bikers, when traffic is relatively accommodating. The duo had already pumped up the miles-long mountain that snakes from the Beit Shemesh valley to the capital and were heading home, when Eli — riding about 50 yards ahead of his father — heard a crash and the grating sound of twisting metal. “I knew instinctively what had happened, and a quick glance over my shoulder told the whole grisly story: My father lay unconscious and contorted on the concrete next to his mangled bike.” No vehicle remained on the scene to take responsibility. But police later located the driver of the hit-and-run semitrailer — an employee of a moving company — who claimed he continued driving because he didn’t notice the professor pedaling ahead of him even as he knocked him off his bike to the side of the road. Professor Kazhdan was soon whisked off by ambulance to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital’s trauma center, where doctors began fighting for his life but — with a shattered pelvis, multiple leg fractures, and a severely wounded back — didn’t give much hope for the 67-year-old mathematical genius’s chances of survival. One year later, Professor Kazhdan may not be running marathons, climbing mountains, or even pedaling down the block, but after nearly a year of paralysis, he’s begun to hobble along on his own two feet, defying the dire predictions of therapists and physicians. It’s his tenacity, determination, and iron will — qualities that helped him survive the Russia of the KGB, embrace a life of Torah and mitzvos, and rebuild his life in the US and then in Israel — that helped him rally again, this time in what’s been the most difficult test of his life.


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