IDF veterans hosted to ski getaway in Aspen

"He was aggressive, he listened, and he kept on trying hard," said Kim Hale, Goazlan's instructor.

By Charles Agar - The Aspen Times

April 6 2008


 Ronnie Goazlon completes his first run down the slope!!


ASPEN — When Roni Goazlan falls on the ski slope in his sit-ski, he roars.

He's not frustrated; he loves being on skis and falling is just part of the fun.

Goazlan, 35, is one of 10 wounded Israeli veterans who were at
Snowmass this week for a sports clinic sponsored by the Jewish
Community Center Chabad of Aspen and Challenge Aspen.

"I've never seen people laugh so much after a somersault," said Shalom
Illouz, a long-time Aspenite and member of the Jewish Community Center
who volunteered during the week-long clinic, which ran from March 27
to April 3.

Though the Israeli veterans' visit coincided with the 22nd annual
National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, the programs were
unaffiliated, Illouz said.

But Israeli and U.S. military veterans did have a chance to share
experiences, and Goazlan said he could relate to U.S. veterans'
stories of terror attacks and suicide bombers.

A medic with the border patrol in Israel, Goazlan was on vacation near
his family home in Jerusalem in June of 2002 when he spied a
suspicious man outside a crowded bus terminal.

The man was talking on a cell phone connected by a wire to something
under a jacket, Goazlan said, and the trained soldier became
suspicious and followed the man toward a crowd of more than 100

"I knew he was a suicide bomber," Goazlan said, but the trained
soldier did not have time to reach in his backpack for his handgun.

Instead, Goazlan tackled the bomber and pushed the man against a wall
just before the bomb exploded.

Goazlan opened his eyes moments later to a moment of perfect silence
before he heard the screams of wounded people and the approaching

He saw that his legs were badly broken and bleeding and reached in his
medic bag for gauze to staunch the wounds, then turned to help a woman

Despite his efforts, the woman died, he said.

Goazlan spent ten days in intensive care and endured 22 operations
over one year and 8 months in and out of hospitals before his legs
were amputated.

"You must go on; you can't go back to the past," Goazlan said, adding
that he's never felt sorry for himself over his injuries.

In fact, he's got a new lease on life.

"Before I was attacked, I didn't do any sports," Goazlan said.

Today, he's the captain of his hometown wheelchair basketball team, he
rides horses, and thanks to the folks at Challenge Aspen, he skis.

And Goazlan took to it right from the start.

"He was aggressive, he listened, and he kept on trying hard," said Kim
Hale, Goazlan's instructor.

After just a few days, Goazlan was still tethered to Hale, but was
skiing mostly on his own.

Goazlan will likely return to Aspen in summer to be fitted for his own
sit-ski, and he hopes to come to more camps.

He might be able to continue at ski areas in the north of Israel, but
added, "We have skiing, but not like this."

Rabbi Mendel Mintz of the Jewish Community Center congratulated the
many Aspenites who came out in force to support the event, and said
the Israeli soldiers really benefited from the trip.

"We figured there's so much in common with what our troops go through
and what Israeli veterans go through," Mintz said. "It was amazing how
there was such a bond."

Mintz's organization sponsored the travel, food and accommodation for
the Israeli soldiers, with help from in-kind donations from various
organizations, and the generous support of Houston Cowan of Challenge

During this week's visit, one of the Israeli veterans was so inspired
by the Snowmass scenery, he proposed to his girlfriend on the
mountain, Mintz said.

Mintz will meet with Challenge Aspen officials in coming weeks to talk
about future Israeli veteran visits, he said.