UPDATE 9 am Israel time Wednesday:
And so it continues. We had about 48 hours of no rockets and missiles as Hamas dissembled to all of those moronic enough to listen that it was trying to stop the rocket fire coming out of Gaza. Of course, Hamas controls–either directly or indirectly–every missile that is fired. By yesterday afternoon the Qassams began falling again with three more striking the southern communities along the Gaza border.
Oddly enough, the biggest missile news yesterday was the missile that wasn’t (apparently). As I reported in israelstreet breaking news, screeching sirens of an impending rocket attack sent us–and approximately one million other southern Israelis–running to our bomb shelter at around 6:30 pm–sirens that sounded in every community from Beersheva to Ashdod. We were later told that it was a false alarm–though no one here in the South believes what the government and IDF say about missiles anymore.
On the international front, it is safe to say that most of Israel is stunned today by the rejection of “red lines” for Iran by U.S. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Panetta. The question on everyone’s lips is simply: “If the United States is unwilling to set a baseline for action against the Iranian nuclear program, what reason is there to believe it will ever act against Tehran?”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s ridiculous assertion that the U.S. would have one year or maybe less to act once it is convinced that Iran is working on nuclear weapons is just that–ridiculous. Most Israelis that I have talked to this morning think that by the time the U.S. decides to act, a mushroom cloud will be billowing over Tel Aviv. And to top it all off, President Obama can’t find time on his busy schedule to meet with Netanyahu in New York in a few weeks. Unbelievable.
Yesterday’s blog ended with the first phase of the incredible story of IAF helicopter pilot Noam Gershony from the moment his helicopter crashed near Kiryat Shmona to his lying in gravely critical condition at Rambam Hospital–after having died twice on the way to Haifa.
The next week saw Noam between life and death–but he simply refused to die and by the end of the week had stabilized to “critical” condition. For the next four years, Noam endured endless operations and therapy, but he describes it this way: “It was a miracle that I was saved. From the moment that I got my life back as a gift, I promised myself that I wouldn’t waste it.”
And he didn’t. Through long days, months, and years of rehabilitation, with total paralysis below the waist, and diminished muscle tone in his arms, shoulders, and chest, Noam nevertheless set himself on the road to recovery and in the process became an inspiration to all of those around him.
Two years ago, Noam took the advice of his physiotherapists and began playing wheelchair tennis in order to increase his muscle tone. With gritty determination, he mastered the game and reached the finals of the U.S. Open last year.
This year when he registered for the Paralympics in London, his Air Force comrades in arms–who have remained fiercely loyal to him and who have marveled at his determination–had no doubt that he would win, and only bought tickets for the semi-finals and finals.
He won those finals and the gold medal 6-3, 6-1 over reigning world champion David Wagner of the United States.
At the medals ceremony, all of his friends, family, and fellow soldiers chanted “Noam, Noam” as he ascended the podium and had the gold medal placed around his neck. He burst into tears when Hatikvah was played–you probably will too as you watch the video:
And through it all what was Noam thinking about?
He was thinking about how proud he was to be an Israeli doing something for his country.
While still at center court and draped in an Israeli flag, Noam said simply: “I can’t put into words how it felt to hear ‘Hatikva’ and see the Israeli flag at the top of the pole. I never thought I would have the chance to represent the country and certainly never believed that I would be able to bring it such honor.”
Later in an interview on Israeli Army radio, Gershony added these thoughts: “. . . I was wounded for the country, giving my life and body for her. I would do it all over again, even if I knew that this would be the outcome. This may have made me happier, the fact that I am able to bring so much pride to the country.”
Noam returned home yesterday with Israel’s other paralympians. They were immediately taken to the President’s House in Jerusalem where everyone praised their effort–and even Netanyahu described how he had cried when he saw Noam at the medal ceremony.
The accolades for him have come from every corner but maybe the most succinct was from Noam’s former commander, Major “Yohai”:
“Noam is a fighter and a true friend with a giant heart. This is a big day and a great honor for the country and the squadron”.
Noam Gershony is an inspiration to us all.
A final note: If you are ever in the north, take the time to visit Hula Agamon, a nature reserve developed in 1995 by the Jewish National fund. Take Highway 90, turn right, then left at Koah Junction.
You will find yourself at the “Ran Kochba Observation Point” named in honor of Noam’s co-pilot and navigator, from which you can see the beautiful reserve spread out before you–and you can see a part of the helicopter that went down that night carrying Ron Kochba and Noam Gershony.
***Your humble servant would like to acknowledge numerous sources for the information in this blog including the IAF information office, Yediot Aharonot, the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and algemeiner.com.
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