Haredi social media star with rare disease, age 11, conquers Israel’s heart

Eleven-year-old Hizki Thornheim, who has a rare bone disease, has captured the hearts of both haredi and secular Israelis through his inspiring videos.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Eleven-year-old Hizki Thornheim, who has a rare bone disease, has captured the hearts of both haredi and secular Israelis through his inspiring videos.

At first, Thornheim’s videos, in which he promotes positive thinking and implores the public to follow the Health Ministry’s coronavirus guidelines, went viral within the haredi community.

But Thornheim’s natural stage presence and charisma quickly spread to Israelis outside of the haredi community, leading to media appearances on mainstream Israeli TV shows like HaZinor.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Channel 12 News aired an interview with Thornheim where he spoke about his experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to his illness, Thornheim is considered to be in a high-risk group for the virus. His family has been self-isolating since the beginning of the pandemic, and he and his eight siblings are not attending in-person classes at school.

“Unfortunately, there are families who don’t leave the house at all,” he said to Channel 12 News. “They’re afraid, because one family member is in a risk group.”

But a recent death meant that Thornheim had to venture out into the world, despite the risks.

“We really never leave the house unless it’s something critical,” said Thornheim. “But then our rabbi passed away.”

“And for me, I felt especially connected to him. At one of his son’s weddings, he danced with me. We felt we must go to his funeral. So my dad thought, how can he take me out of the house safely?”

Thornheim’s father found the answer when he met Yossi Gal, a Petach Tikva resident.

Although he had no prior experience in the medical technology field, Gal developed and constructed a custom-fit plastic box for Thornheim’s wheelchair.

“Like an angel, he sat and thought for a long time, until he created this for me,” says Thornheim.

The box provides a safety barrier for Thornheim and doesn’t interfere with the wheelchair’s functions.

Photos of Thornheim at the rabbi’s funeral, praying alongside others while inside of the box, went viral on Haredi site Kikar HaShabbat.

“God wants to take us back to unconditional love,” Thornheim told Channel 12 News. “And He is doing it in this way: he brought us the coronavirus.”

He explained that being made to consider each other’s welfare is the path back to unconditional love between human beings.

“There are people, age 30, who are not in high risk groups. Yet they respect the Health Ministry guidelines anyway. Why? For the benefit of the people in the high risk groups.”

“We have to look out for each other,” Thornheim said emphatically.