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Jewish Journal

The Goalie of Oz

by Emily Pauker

July 28, 2005 | 8:00 pm

Oz Iluz loved to play goalie on his soccer team, but wasn't too keen on math or the math exam that awaited him. So the 12-year-old didn't really want to get on the small No. 14 bus in Jerusalem on that February morning in 2004.

A suicide bomber also boarded the bus, killing eight, including Oz's friend. Oz suffered serious injuries and underwent surgery and therapy. He still has flashbacks about the bombing and panic attacks.

Thanks to an anonymous American donor and some friends, Oz and his family recently came to the United States.

Oz's future is looking brighter. He still loves soccer , so he got a particular thrill attending and participating in a practice at a private home with 30 players from the Maccabiah soccer team arranged by coaches Kobi Goren and Philip Benditsen.

Then after Steve Sampson, coach of the L.A. Galaxy, learned of Oz's story, he invited him to a team practice at the Home Depot Center in Carson, where Oz dressed in full soccer gear.

His recent bar mitzvah also was a milestone. His Torah reading from Genesis -- "In the beginning" -- couldn't have been more appropriate for his rejuvenated outlook.

"I was engulfed in love," Oz said.

What did he like most about his trip? Oz smiled again and spoke the name of the donor who brought him here.

For more information, call (310) 550-1160.

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