Thursday, May 06, 2010

Boy Who Lost Limbs in Gaza War Finds His Sea Legs

Regardless of your policital leanings about the conflict, here's a touching story born out of the embattled region.

When Khalil al Jedaili first saw Dubai’s beaches, he was indifferent. “Only donkeys wash in the ocean,” the 17-year-old said.

Back home, in Al Breij refugee camp, in the Gaza strip, swimming was not part of his life, even before he lost his legs in an Israeli air raid last year.

Just a few weeks after dismissing Dubai’s beach lifestyle, Khalil is not only swimming but exploring its coral reefs in full scuba diving gear.


While he waited for his new legs to be fitted – “He has practised with them already,” said the fund’s Iman Odeh-Yabroudi – Khalil was offered the chance to go scuba diving.

He enjoyed it so much that he asked if he could learn to dive properly. “It is a completely different world,” he said. “I like the fish and I also like how quiet it is.”

It was not been easy. Without feet – and therefore without fins – he has to use his upper body to propel himself, which requires far more exertion than standard swimming.

He has to be careful, too – because his hands are extended in front of him as he swims, he needs to pay close attention to the hoses that connect his air tank and other pieces of equipment.

He also tends to get cold in the water a lot quicker.

But, said Ernst van der Poll, who founded the diving and education charity Tawasul and has been teaching Khalil to dive, the boy has persevered despite these challenges. “It has been such a pleasure teaching him because of his can-do attitude,” he said.

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Ours is a truly an amazing sport, is it not?

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