The Israeli Paralympians: Larger than Life Heroes

The Israeli press mentioned numerous times after the Israeli judokas Yarden Gerbi and Or Sasson brought home two medals from Rio that Israel did not win any medals in the last Olympics in London. This is simply not true.

The Israeli Paralympic team was outstanding in the London Olympics, as they are in all of the Paralympic Games they compete in, returning home with an impressive haul of eight medals and have great potential in the current Paralympics being held in Rio. Israel always has a strong showing at the Paralympics and even hosted the games in 1968, at which Israel finished third on the medal table that year with 62 medals, of which 18 were gold. Israel has won a staggering 124 gold medals at the Summer Paralympic Games since 1960! The 43 Israelis and other delegates from around the world who are competing in Rio this year are people who have struggled and ultimately won against all of the challenges of the human body.

The star of the London games was Noam Gershony.  The nation cried collective tears of emotion and pride upon witnessing how he pulled himself from the wreck of his Apache helicopter in the Second Lebanon War all the way to the Olympic medal podium as he received a gold medal for our country and himself. From Paralysis to world-class athlete after six years of grueling rehabilitation fueled by grit, determination together with tremendous support and love from friends and family. A visibly emotional Gershony teared up during the medals ceremony he summed up the feelings of a nation when he said:

I’m on top of the world,” “Hearing Hatikvah play and seeing the Israeli flag fly high. I can’t describe this feeling.”

noam-gershony
Noam Gershony. (Razi Livnat/courtesy ISAP)

Our heroes, some of whom were wounded in the defense of our homeland, and some of whom were born with disabilities, all rose above their disabilities to prove that they can go further than those born without disabilities. These special men and women who overcome war injuries and physical disabilities, and who fight to recover and overcome and go on to achieve great results for themselves and our nation are an inspiration to us all.  We can learn so much from these sporting role models. These courageous individuals teach us not to wallow in self-pity and that, “If there is a will, there is a way.”

 

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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