Aharon Gozlan has always dreamed of hitting the slopes.

Ever the sportsman, the 35-year-old is an accomplished basketball player and championship horseback rider. His athletic prowess, in fact, saved lives in 2002, when the Israeli border policeman jumped a suicide bomber in the French Hill section of Jerusalem.

He prevented carnage that day, but the blast from the terrorist's bomb vest shattered both his legs. When doctors finally amputated them a year and eight months later – after 22 surgeries designed to save the limbs – Gozlan gave up on his wintry wish.

A trip with nine other wounded Israeli military veterans to Aspen, Colo., however, will give him the chance he thought was lost forever. On March 27, the group will join Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of the Chabad Terror Victim's Project, for a week-long winter sports adventure with Challenge Aspen, a non-profit organization whose motto is "making possibilities for people with disabilities."

Chabad-Lubavitch of Aspen, under the direction of Rabbi Mendel and Lieba Mintz, is underwriting the trip, covering all of the soldiers' expenses, from their stay in the local L'Auberge lodge to their meals, ski equipment and airfare. Many community members have chipped in, and the Aspen Valley United Jewish Appeal awarded a sizable grant to the project.

According to Shalom Illouz, an Israeli businessman living in Aspen who is helping to coordinate the trip for Mintz, it will be the first such gathering of Israeli veterans in the mountaintop resort. The delegation's presence, he added, will be made all the more special by a group of some 400 wounded American veterans who will also be participating in the Challenge Aspen program.

"What we wanted to do was take some disabled veterans and give them the wonderful opportunity to face some challenges, to challenge themselves," said Illouz. "It's a great way to help them in their rehabilitation."

On the slopes, the soldiers will find a team of dedicated instructors specializing in helping people with all types of disabilities learn to ski. One of Challenge Aspen's signature pieces of equipment is the bi-ski, which has two skis attached to a bucket seat. The rider can control it with outriggers just like a normal skier or an instructor can manipulate its course with tethers.

In January, the organization hosted a winter camp for U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq with traumatic brain injuries. On its Web site, it extols the "undeniable, positive impact of recreation" on wounded veterans.

"People are so proud and excited about this program," beamed Mintz. "The whole community knows about it. People stop me on the street and ask how they can help. Bar and bat mitzvah kids are putting aside their weekend to make sure all the veterans' needs are taken care of."

Kutner, who has worked with the soldiers ever since they first got injured in combat, said that the ski trip will provide the all-too important component of fun that can fall by the wayside in victims' lives.

"It really is therapy through sport," said the rabbi. "This is an opportunity to return to regular life."

Anything's Possible

The site of a June 19, 2002 terror attack in the French Hill section of Jerusalem that ultimately claimed both of Israeli border policeman Aharon Gozlan’s legs
The site of a June 19, 2002 terror attack in the French Hill section of Jerusalem that ultimately claimed both of Israeli border policeman Aharon Gozlan’s legs
With the help of prosthetics and the constant care of his wife, Gozlan, the double amputee, was able to return to the police for four hours each day. He plays wheelchair basketball and is the top-ranked rider in the handicapped division of competitive equestrian sports in Jerusalem. Skiing, though, remains his unfulfilled passion.

"I dreamed of going skiing when I was a man with two legs," he said this week from his Jerusalem home. "But I never did."

Amir Levi said that he was excited for the chance to interact with American vets.

"It will be very interesting to meet them and see what" their experiences are, said the 24-year-old aspiring international relations scholar.

On July 22, 2002, Levi – then a corporal in the Israel Defense Force's elite Givati Brigade – had only had a year of service under his belt when a routine patrol in the Gaza Strip left him with multiple injuries. A gunman opened fire just four meters away, shooting him in one knee and both arms. Today, the Hadera resident can walk, but cannot run.

"I've never skied before," he said. "But anything's possible."

Gary Ofer Alfmon, 37, another of the trip's participants, is the proof of Levi's assertion.

The combat paramedic was on a mission near the West Bank city of Jenin when his troop exchanged fire with terrorists they were trying to arrest. A bullet pierced his skull, lodging itself in his brain.

"I lost consciousness for two days," said the Netanya resident and married father of four. "In the hospital, they succeeded in removing part of the bullet, but I don't remember anything from that first week.

"Half of my body was paralyzed," he added. "For two years, I went to outpatient rehabilitation."

Alfmon, who used to need a wheelchair, now can run and ride a bike, a remarkable improvement from his brush with death. His lingering injuries include post traumatic stress disorder and a lack of peripheral vision. The remainder of the terrorist's bullet remains beneath a partially-reconstructed skull.

"These were two very difficult years, physically and mentally," he said. "But I was a fighter, and I stayed a fighter in my soul. Kutner visited me in the hospital, and made a connection with my family. He helped my wife and children during my rehab."

For Alfmon, who returned to his unit to coach soldiers in various sports, the beauty of the Aspen trip lies in its embrace of challenging physical activity.

"Sport really, really helps me," he said. "Through sport, I'm able to break out of the trauma."

Harry Feldman, vice president of the Jewish Community Center, assured that the vets would have the times of their lives.

"They will never forget this week," he pledged. "The soldiers will be meeting more than 50 new people each day. Three local doctors are coming to talk and share with them. We will be hosting a cocktail party at the premiere Aspen Club, and they will go bowling with some of the community's teenagers.

"Everybody wants to share our town with them."

"Thanks to this partnership, these soldiers will now be able to ski down some of the most unique mountains in the world," said Mintz. "We hope they'll go back to Israel feeling rejuvenated and excited, with new strength to deal with any challenges they encounter in the future."

"This is a very special thing," said Gozlan, "to learn my abilities, and to see how this world is advancing to the point that a person with disabilities such as mine can ski. We're all very excited to go."