Studied for medical school amid falling bombs | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Studied for medical school amid falling bombs

Israeli Sgt. Dvir Ben Hayun, a former Nicolet High School student, spent months after Oct. 7 overlooking Syria and Lebanon from an outpost atop Mount Hermon. 

He grabbed whatever hours he could at this far, northeastern edge of Israel, for staring deeply into an iPad screen to study for a medical school exam. Hezbollah projectiles rained down around him. 

“That was a constant thing,” he recalled. “I was there all winter, studying for an exam, while I could hear the bombs 30 yards away.” 

At times, he was in a bunker. Other times, in a tent, hopefully with enough of a charge to study for an internal medicine exam. He was able to get in around six hours a week of studying, he said.  

Everyone has an Oct. 7 story. His is that he was in medical school, in Prague, when the conflict started. He soon started shuttling between class and Israel, often serving as a combat medic in the north. Now, he’s done with school, back in Israel, and expects he’ll continue to serve in the north. He may go back to the same mountain.  

His Milwaukee years 

Ben Hayun lived in the Milwaukee area because his father moved from Israel temporarily for work, from about 2007 to 2011. Ben Hayun attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School. At first, he worried about his English, but soon became more comfortable. Now 29, he remembers Hebrew on the walls there, and other touches that helped him feel a comforting sense of Israel in Wisconsin. 

He loved BBYO-Wisconsin’s weekly pre-Shabbat event. “That gave me the ability to meet new friends from Homestead, from Whitefish Bay, from all the other high schools in the area,” he said.  

After MJDS he attended Nicolet High School in Glendale: “For me, it was awesome, just because I was this Israeli kid who could now play football and baseball.” He was on the swim team at Nicolet, a precursor to his service in the Israeli Navy and his current love of scuba diving.  

What he values most from his time in Wisconsin is the people. “In my mind, the people are the place,” he said. 

Ben Hayun returned to Israel with his family for 11th grade. After high school, he served as a combat medic in the Israel Defense Forces and was eventually assigned as a combat medic to the Israeli equivalent of the Navy Seals. He was honorably discharged in 2016, and a reservist ever since, he said. He then spent two years doing nearly well enough on standardized tests to get into an Israeli medical school. 

“I took the tests four times, but then realized it’ll just be a waste of a few years trying to be admitted, and chose to go abroad,” he said, matter-of-factly. He enrolled in Charles University in Prague, completing its medical school program last month. He graduates July 24. 

On Oct. 7, he was in Prague when a scuba diving friend called, before they were set to go for another weekend morning in the water, and told him the news.  

“My immediate thought was, forget school right now; I need to get back to Israel,” he said. “My dad talked me out of it just because I had three more weeks to spend in Prague, to finish another exam, and I did that.” 

In November, upon his arrival in Israel, the Israeli Navy “loaned” him to an army battalion in the north of the country. Since then, he has spent months in the north intermittently and has served the navy as a combat medic. He was allowed to fly to Prague and back several times to attend medical school. That’s how he wound up studying on an iPad amid rockets. 

“Any time I would have a few moments of time to go in a room by myself, I would take that time and go study,” he said. Other times, he would talk with the doctor he was stationed with, to learn from him. Studying could happen in a bunker, or in a tent. “I would try to open a hot spot, whenever it worked,” he said.  

Ben Hayun interviewed in June, by Zoom, from Prague. His best guess is that he’ll go back to serving in the north of Israel this summer, as a combat medic attached to the army. 

Inadequate equipment 

Ben Hayun started a crowdfunding campaign for protective gear, part of a trend among troops of the Israeli Defense Forces (see story, page 23). He said his unit needs advanced helmets, vests and ballistic plates. 

“We have vests that resemble World War II vests, with straps and a lot of pouches along the waistline. Obviously, that’s not something you want to go into battle with, especially since we are not fighting in World War II,” he said. The vests are worn, outdated. “The Velcro is not velcroing anymore. It’s not sticking.” 

The smallest ones are too small, and the biggest ones are too big, he said. The big ones would be very hard for him to crawl in, he said.  

But even more important is protective gear, like the ballistic plates his unit wants for protection. Those items have been sent to the south, he said, and they are needed in the north. 

He may be able to borrow soft armor, but he does not have access to hard armor, a better ballistic armor, he said. There are different levels of hard armor he said, but added, “honestly at this point, any ballistic plates will do.” 

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Crowdfunding campaign 

“Our team may be small, but we are most certainly up for the task. Unfortunately, over the past few months, we’ve come to realize that our gear is worn out, essentially using outdated helmets and overused vests; far from ideal when treating people under fire.” 

To support Dvir Ben Hayun’s medical team, visit this story online for a link to the crowdfunding campaign.  

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Dvir Ben Hayun stands at the center, with two other Israeli soldiers, during training in December 2024. 
Dvir Ben Hayun, wearing a ballcap, is with his three younger siblings, left to right, Yonatan, Lior and Liron. They were on a trip to the Georgian Caucus mountains in 2022. 
Dvir Ben Hayun, the day after he finished his last medical school exam in June. He and friends went to shoot pictures together, including this shot of Ben Hayun. 
Dvir Ben Hayun was among other Israeli Defense Force soldiers during training in December 2024.