Ziv Koren and Izzy Ezagui both served the Israel Defense Forces – Koren with a camera, and Ezagui with a gun. They came together at the MJCCA Book Festival Nov. 4 to discuss their literary and visual creations with Michael Morris, AJT owner and publisher.
Koren showed slides to take the audience chapter by chapter through his 18th book, “Snapshot: the IDF as Never Seen Before.” Capturing Israel for over 25 years, his images document how IDF soldiers and other elite security forces “risk their own lives to root out terrorism” and protect innocent lives, he said. “It’s not just about history. … It’s all relevant to what we have here and now today.”
One particular “snapshot” had him alongside soldiers, dangling 820 feet above ground, to capture training for terrorists taking over a building. “There is no way to shoot this except rappelling down next to them.”
He showed night raids in which special units had precise intelligence and only a few hours to stop terrorism. Although there might be family members on the scene in turmoil, the alternative could be a bus explosion or suicide bomb, he said. “It has to be stopped.”
Other photos show women in the IDF. The women, who can assume most roles in the IDF, almost always do the job better than men, Koren said, to the applause of female audience members. “Every job a woman takes frees a guy to be a combat soldier.”
His last slide was the cover of his previous book, “Brotherhood,” in which circles of soldiers put a hand on the head in front of them as a kippah while reciting the prayer for friends lost in the war. “This represents what Israeli soldiers are all about.”
From a somber slideshow came a humorous Ezagui, the young Miami-born author of “Disarmed: Unconventional Lessons from the World’s Only One-Armed Special Forces Sharpshooter.”
After Morris introduced him, Ezagui said he thought better than to speak in the fake Israeli accent people have come to expect from an IDF soldier while beside Koren, a sabra.
He spoke about his injury and aftermath in a lighthearted way that endeared him to the audience. After learning his injury wasn’t life-threatening, he was still fearful that his mother might kill him if she found out about it from international media awaiting his return. So, from his stretcher, he grabbed a blanket to cover himself.
He pulls a story from the book’s opening. While recovering on a beach, he rescued an attractive woman who got caught in a strong undertow. She left him with nothing more than a “thank you,” but he realized from the incident that if a poor swimmer like himself could save a life with one arm, he could still achieve his dream of serving in the IDF. Ironically, when re-enlisting after rehab, he did better in basic training with one arm than before the accident.
In 2011, former Israeli president Shimon Perez awarded Ezagui Israel’s highest military honors. Still, he remains humble.
He thanked Koren for taking photos at the front line. And after the pair answered questions from the audience, he popped up to take the microphone with a final challenge for Koren: “I go back to reserve duty next month. Would you consider following me around?”