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Jessica Cogan and Noam Gershony

Israeli Paralympics Gold Medal Winner Noam Gershony Delivers Moving Lecture at JNF Event

by Rhonda Spivak, Nov 15, 2018

Noam Gershony received a standing ovation from the large audience that came to hear him share his inspiring personal story at an event put on by the Jewish National Fund on November 7.


Noam Gershony is lucky to be alive. A former combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force, Gershony was critically wounded in the second Lebanon war in an Apache helicopter crash in 2006. His rehabilitation process was considered a medical miracle.During his rehabilitation process,Noam began to practice tennis at Beit Halochem and became a leading tennis player in Israel’s national team for the handicapped. Among other achievements in the field he won his gold medal in Quad Singles and shared a bronze in Quad Doubles with Shraga Weinberg in the 2012 London Paralympic Games. In wheelchair tennis he is rated second in the world in the highest rank of disability.

Gershony was in Winnipeg to assist the Jewish National Fund raise money for the construction of a fourth Beit Halochem facility in Israeli, to be built in Ashdod in southern Israel. Gershony stated that it was Beit Halochem that played a significant role in his rehabilitation, just as it does for  so many other wounded Israelis and victims of terror. Jessica Cogan, the president of JNF Manitoba and Saskatchewan, who introduced Gershony, remembered meeting him about a year ago on when he visited Winnipeg. She suggested asking him to return to Winnipeg to share "his incredible story of resilience.”


Growing up Gershony loved to play tennis, ski and skydive. Although  today Gershony is in a wheelchair much of the time, he used two canes to enable him to walk up to the podium at Shaarey Zedek and he stood throughout his moving and inspiring presentation.He told the audience that while his right leg is functional, his left leg is not. He has a brace on his left leg that enables him to walk a little bit.



 “I was raised in a strong Zionist family,” he said. He never thought he would be a pilot but when "I made it through flight school, my mom cried for three days." 


 Gershony described the helicopter  crash that occurred in the summer of 2006, when Israel was at war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Gershony was flying an Apache helicopter to support Israeli ground troops.  “My co-pilot and I were flying at about 6,000 feet in formation with the other helicopters in formation. We collided with a second helicopter. The other helicopter managed to land with only minor injuries to the pilots,” he said


“Our helicopter was badly damaged. There was an explosion. We crashed. My co-pilot died,” Gershony stated. Although Gershony survived, he was left with broken arms and legs, spinal damage,and a broken pelvis and jaw and was in a coma for 18 days .“ I woke up in Rambam hospital [in Haifa] with no idea how I got there. I couldn't even speak " (He explained his  broken jaw was sealed shut in order to enable it to heal.)


Gershony noted "they put metal everywhere in my body." He spent six months in the hospital.  Because of his broken jaw, he couldn't eat. He had to sip protein drinks such as Ensure through a straw for two and a half months . "I was so weak."


 Gershony had many sleepless nights in the hospital. "I stated asking myself why did this happen to me? What if  I hadn’t gone to flight school?.”  When the parents of his co-pilot came to visit him, his perspective changed. "I decided that I will never be depressed because I am alive." 


“I realized that I should be thankful to be alive and I had to make the most of my life,” he said. 


Gershony had to accept that nothing would ever be the same for him. "Rehabilitation is not necessarily getting back your old life". He added, "I had to change my expectations..."


Gershony said that the fact that his " my family and friends were there for me every hour of everyday” served to help him in his rehabilitation process. At Beit Halochem, it took over two years for him to walk again. "When I walk with a brace it's painful. Pain and discomfort are a part of my life. The wheelchair is a part of my life....I have to remind myself of what I can do. I decided I was going to enjoy my life " 


Gershony began playing wheelchair tennis.“Less than a year after I got out of rehab I started playing tennis competitively,” he said. He began travelling all over the world competing in tournaments. "My goal was to qualify for the 2012 Paralympics in 2012.”


"I believe everyone has inner power if they believe in themselves," Gershony emphasized.


“I was injured protecting Israel. I don't regret any decision I've made. I am a proud Israeli, a proud Jew and I  am the luckiest guy in the room here. I am lucky to have survived. I am grateful and thankful for all the things that I can do today, " Gershony stated


"I am focused on enjoying my life and celebrating life," he added '


Gernshony, who teaches mathematics,  mentioned that he was honored to be invited last spring to be one of 14 Israelis chosen to light a torch in celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary. “I dedicated my torch to my fellow veterans and my fellow paraOlympians,” he said.


Gershony is now retired from competitive tennis, and hopes to go to the next Paralympics as a spectator or possibly a coach. 


Gershony heaped praise on  Keren Kayemet LeLsrael (KKL)/JNF for all the good work that it does. Anyone  who wishes to donate to the JNF to support the Beit Halochem project should contact the Jewish National Fund office at 204 947 0207.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.