Israel’s Paralympics Sailing Champions to Navigate the "Eran Almog
April 25, 2008
The Olympics may be over, but the Beijing Paralympics – elite sports events for athletes with disabilities – are just round the corner, and here’s your chance to root for the Israeli champions! The games, to be held September 8-13, will include three former IDF soldiers, who won’t let their limitations keep them from reaching their dreams. Watch history unfold as they sail for the gold on a boat called “Eran Almog”.
“Benny, Arnon, my coach Gili and I are going to do it again – we are going for gold!!!!!
It will be a dream come true to sing Hatikva again and win the games, we will do everything we know and like winners will come back.
Our boat is called “Eran Almog” and I am sure it’s a lucky name for us. We met with Doron Almog and learned the amazing story of his family.
The sailing venue is in Qingdao, and we will race between the 8-13 September.
And we hope you will send good wind to our sails…”
– Dror Cohen, August 6, 2008
It was a diverse gathering, hosted by Major General (Res) Doron Almog, Chairman of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. The group included Dror Cohen, a former F-16 flyer who was injured in a car accident and left paralyzed in both legs; Benny Wexler, who lost his hand in the first Lebanon War (1982); and Arnon Efrati, whose arm was amputated when his tank received a direct hit during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
What brought them together was a boat – the “Eran Almog”, generously donated by Ed Frankel in honor of Doron’s special son, who died tragically last year at the age of 23. Eran was the inspiration behind the establishment of the rehabilitative village for disabled young adults, which has since been renamed in his memory.
For the three men and their coach, Gil Yakimov, Eran Almog is more than simply a name on their boat. With a medal for sailing from the Athens Paralympics, they have now their sights set on a victory in Beijing. Having overcome their personal disabilities, the champions sought to draw additional spirit and energy from Eran’s memory by meeting with his father.
For Doron, a major general in the reserves, the three former IDF officers exemplify everything a soldier should be: courageous and enthusiastic, perseverance in the face of all odds, the ability to overcome barriers and break through weaknesses. They serve as an example for the residents of ALEH Negev, discovering not only new abilities and talents but “their voices” as well.
Mr. Almog handed out Chamsot created by the children of ALEH in their vocational workshops, as a symbolic “helping hand”; the three champions pledged to take the charms along with them in the boat while they compete for a medal.
As they sail off to victory, they have already won – a place in our hearts, and our utmost admiration.
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