Peace Activist Shot In Israel Returns To Home In Triangle
Posted June 15, 2003 12:51 p.m. EDT
MORRISVILLE, N.C. — A peace activist whose face was ripped apart by machine-gun fire, allegedly by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Jenin, returned to his parents' home Saturday to await further surgeries.
Witnesses say Brian Avery was clearly identified as a peaceful observer when Israeli soldiers shot him in Haifa on April 5. Since then, he's undergone nearly two months of reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation at an Israeli hospital.
Avery said he hopes his suffering will draw attention to the need for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
"Anything that can happen to help spread the message of peace in that region is, I think, necessary and welcome," he said Saturday.
A crowd of about 60 peace activists and friends burst into cheers as Avery, 25, met them at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He had spent the last two months recovering at a hospital in Haifa before leaving Israel Friday, his father said.
Smiling despite the wires and rubber bands clamping shut his jaw, Avery's eyes sparkled at the crowd. Many held signs urging peace and welcoming him home to mother and father, Julie and Robert Avery of Chapel Hill.
Avery appeared stunned at the reception.
"As long as there's this many people ready to support peace and justice in the world, we're in good hands," Avery told the crowd through his clenched teeth. "I'm glad to be alive and that I'm going to keep meeting so many wonderful people."
Avery, a member of the Palestinian-backed International Solidarity Movement, was shot on April 5 when he stepped outdoors with a friend to check gunfire during an evening curfew.
"I fell and one of (the activists) took off his shirt to stanch the wounds until the ambulance got there," he said, dabbing his scarred lip with a handkerchief. "I knew ... I was very critically injured. I was determined not to let it be the end of me."
It was among three Israeli military incidents involving his group within one month.
On March 16, Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Wash., was crushed to death trying to prevent a bulldozer from tearing down a home in Gaza. Corrie's parents live in Charlotte.
Thomas Hurndall, 21, of Britain was shot in the head April 11 as he helped children to safety; he remains unconscious.
While in Israel, Avery delivered food, accompanied injured people in ambulances and helped people cross checkpoints.
Before that he spent a year at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he majored in music. He also has pursued agriculture, organic farming, environmental interests and peace work while in Europe, Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M.
He recalled April 5 in vivid detail.
Avery has undergone three reconstructive surgeries to rebuild the bridge of his nose and eye sockets. He lost about 30 pounds while hooked to a feeding tube and now faces operations to rebuild his jawbone, implant new teeth and restore his features through plastic surgery.
Through it all, he remained upbeat.
"When I first went to see him, I told him I took a picture of Elvis to give the surgeon," Robert Avery, a retired Navy captain, said of reconstructing his son's face. "He got a chuckle out of that."