Noam Gershony, the Israeli wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal and shared a bronze in the 2012 Paralympics, told an audience in Linden the story of how a 2006 crash while serving as an IDF pilot shaped him into the person he is today.
Gershony was the guest at a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces event Sept. 19 at Congregation Anshe Chesed. Rabbi Joshua Hess told the crowd of about 50 people, “I can’t think of a more meaningful organization to support than the FIDF, which provides our brothers and sisters with numerous opportunities to thrive during and after their military service.”
Cantor Shimon Vogel, whose son is serving as a “lone soldier” in Israel, introduced Gershony.
Gershony described what should have been a routine flight across the southern border of Lebanon to assist troops heading into enemy territory. But his helicopter collided with another in the formation and both crash-landed — killing his copilot and breaking most of the bones in his body.
He told the gathering that his spirit was also broken. “During the long sleepless nights [in the hospital], I started asking myself a very dangerous question: Why me? I’m not a bad person. So why do I deserve this?”
It was a visit from his copilot’s parents that turned him around, Gershony said. He realized he was the only one who could give them the comfort they needed in their grief, leading him to decide to focus on what he could do instead of on what had been lost.
Ultimately, he returned to his love for sports, including skiing and cycling, adapted to his new abilities. During rehabilitation, he learned how to play wheelchair tennis, and six years after the crash, he represented Israel in the 2012 Paralympics in that sport.
He told those gathered, “I love my life today. I’m thankful for everything I can do.”
With reporting by Talia Liben Yarmush