|Noam Gershony speaking this evening in London's Montcalm Hotel|
Centre for Jewish Life's stated mission is "to provide great content, great atmospheres and great venues to attract and connect Jews who might otherwise not have access to authentic, joyful, challenging and meaningful Jewish experiences". Judging by tonight's superb event, which attracted 200 mainly young professionals, they are meeting their objectives better than any other Jewish organisation I have come across. The guest speaker at this dinner (where the food and wine was excellent) was scheduled to be Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat****, but he had to cancel due to the current situation in Jerusalem. Noam Gershony stepped in as a late, but exceptionally worthy, replacement.
Noam, who is 31, was a top Apache helicopter pilot in the Israeli Defence Force. He told us about the kind of missions he flew prior to the 2006 Lebanon War. Sadly, during that war his helicopter crashed killing his co-pilot and good friend Ran Kochva and leaving Noam so badly injured that he was assumed to be dead by the attending medics. Almost every bone in his body was broken and he was held together with multiple wires. Apparently nobody suffering such extensive injuries in such a crash has ever before survived. Noam told us about his long recovery, including how his will to carry on was strengthened when Ran's parents came to visit him in hospital. Although Noam has been unable to walk since, within a year of his devastating injuries he was already taking part in a range of paraplegic sports events and was especially effective at wheelchair tennis. He had a dream to compete in the Paralympic Games in London 2012. Not only did he make the Olympic team but Noam won the gold medal. He spoke of his emotion and pride when hearing the Hatikvah sung. Noam spoke of his commitment to Zionism and the special bond he feels with the Jewish community worldwide when he travels outside Israel. He said simply that what he did in the IDF was his duty like thousands of other Israelis who willingly give their bodies and souls in the defence of their country; he said he would do it all again without hesitation even knowing what his fate would be. Noam continues to be an inspiration to so many in Israel and the wider Jewish community. Nowadays, among his many activities, he volunteers at "Makom Acher", a hostel for at-risk youth in Tel Aviv, and teaches mathematics to teenagers.
Noam Gershony is an authentic Israeli hero. It is he who should be speaking to students about Israel on campuses in the diaspora. Instead, all they seem to get are the frauds of OneVoice, Yachad, Breaking the Silence and all the other anti-Zionists claiming they know what is best for Israel.
***Update: Now seems like Barkat's cancellation was truly a blessing.