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Snowmass hosts Israeli veterans

Charles Agar
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesTethered by Challenge Aspen instructor Kim Hale of Aspen, Roni Gozlan of Jerusalem cruises down Sandy Park ski run Wednesday.
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ASPEN, Colorado ” 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 in 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 that ended Thursday.

The Israeli veterans’ visit coincided with the 22nd annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Israeli and U.S. military veterans had 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 people.

“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.

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

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

He saw that his legs were badly broken and bleeding and reached in his medic bag for gauze to cover his wounds, then turned to help a woman nearby.Despite his efforts, the woman died, he said.

Goazlan spent 10 days in intensive care and endured 22 operations over the next 20 months before his legs were amputated.

“You must go on; you can’t go back to the past,” Goazlan said.

“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 skis, which Goazlan took to it right from the start, his instructor said.

“He was aggressive, he listened, and he kept on trying hard,” said Kim Hale.

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

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

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 said one of the Israeli veterans was so inspired by the scenery, he proposed to his girlfriend on the mountain

“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.”


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