Disabled veteran competes in kayak championship

There are people who complain about the difficulties of life. Then there are those who are born fighters and will remain so, regardless of what happens to them.

One of those is 21 year old Ron Halevi from Northern Israel.

By the age of 13, Ron began kayaking on the Sea of Galilee near his kibbutz. He rowed two hours every day and worked hard, even though he never considered making a career out it; it was a hobby and a way to stay fit.

“I won several medals: but it was really nothing serious,” he said. Like many young people, when he enlisted in the IDF, he gave up kayaking in order to serve as a combat soldier. He served in the armored corps, passed a tank commanders’ course, reached the rank of sergeant and served as an officer in the combat support unit during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

During Operation Protective Edge, he fought in Gaza and was then seriously wounded by a mortar shell. “We had finished an operation near Khan Yunis; we crossed the border and were back in Israeli territory,” he recalls. “Armored personnel carriers came to pick us up and just then we were shot at. One of them hit a carrier and the shrapnel flew towards us.”

Five of his comrades were killed: Omri Tal, Shay Kushnir, Noam Rosenthal, Daniel Marash and Liran Adir (Edry). Ron and nine other soldiers were wounded. Ron suffered wounds from shrapnel in his leg, was transported by helicopter to  Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer and there he was given the bad news: “The doctors explained to me that it would be impossible to save my leg and so they cut it at the knee,” he recounted.

Despite the loss of his leg, he did not lose hope. Ron underwent rehabilitation and received a prosthetic leg. “Only months after my injury I was already walking,” he says. During his rehabilitation he was visited by many other recovered soldiers who had previously lost limbs.

“They proved to me that even if one is left without a leg, it’s not the end of the world. I quickly understood that life goes on,” he said.

Indeed, only six months after being wounded, and receiving a prosthetic leg suitable for water, Ron returned to kayaking.

This August he will participate in the Paracanoe World Championship, in Milan, for kayaking in the 200-meter heat. Ron believes that he will make a strong showing.

“I don’t occupy myself with my disability on a daily basis. I live a totally normal life. I do almost everything,” he said. 

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Rehabilitation Hospital at Sheba Medical Center is the long term rehabilitation facility in Israel for the IDF and for victims of terrorism. It is one of the largest and most advanced facilities in the world, with over 700 beds and some of the world’s top orthopedic, neurological and respiratory rehabilitation doctors. A global leader in specific trauma surgeries and rehabilitation technologies, all resources have been brought to bear in treating soldiers wounded in the conflict.

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