How Israel’s tech scene is helping wounded combat veterans

JTA — When Elad Horovitz and IDF vetran was shot in the head during Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza, his first concern was survival, not how to maintain peripheral vision while driving.

Horovitz, then 20, was shot through his left ear and right eye. Somehow he survived, losing half of his hearing and sight, and underwent two years of rehabilitation before he was able to return to normal life. Now he’s a psychology student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He has a driver’s license, but his vision problems provide obstacles: Horovitz can’t see past the right corner of the car, making it difficult to drive on the narrow streets that crisscross Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.

That, however, changed last week.

At a south Tel Aviv garage, Horovitz watched as a couple of computer engineers worked on his car. One bent under the open hood while the other crowded the left side of the steering wheel with electronics. One small rectangular screen was connected to sensors on the front-left corner of the car, blinking if it got too close to anything. A camera similar to the now-common rearview cameras was for Horovitz’s blind spot.

“Today I can do almost everything, and I drive a lot, almost every day,” he said. “If I avoid going down narrow streets, it’s just because I’m a little scared. Now I’ll stop avoiding it. So these are things you can overcome, and that reduces the presence of my wound day to day.”

The Horovitz project was one of 14 showcased at “Makers for Heroes,” a Tel Aviv event that ran through Wednesday at which wounded former soldiers worked with 150 Israeli tech engineers to devise solutions to problems posed by their disabilities. After two months of prepping, the veterans and their tech teams met Monday in the basement of a WeWork office and spent much of the next 72 hours building their products with code, 3-D printers, polymers and the electronic guts of medical devices.

Read More: Times of Israel