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Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski
Doron Almog: A man on a mission
By SHMUEL RABINOVITCH
12/06/2012
We have been reminded that heroes walk among us, both on and off the battlefield.
 
When a war hero is asked about his greatest accomplishment, one would expect him to respond with a detailed account of an epic mission or historic military maneuver – perhaps the very incident that earned him his stripes. Yet, if you ask Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog about his crowning achievement, he will stray far from the battlefield.

He would downplay his role in rescuing Jewish hostages in Operation Entebbe, saving thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Moses and defending Israel’s very existence in the Yom Kippur War in order to focus on his ultimate triumph: the establishment of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, Israel’s largest residential facility for the severely disabled.

Doron, a dear friend and cherished colleague, would tell you that his son, Eran, was his greatest inspiration and the impetus for his life’s work. In the years prior to Eran’s untimely passing, Doron watched his son – who suffered from severe autism and mental retardation – progress steadily in one of ALEH’s dedicated care facilities. He decided that every disabled child in Israel deserved the highest level of medical and rehabilitative care available and led the campaign to help procure funding for ALEH Negev.

Years later, Eran’s memory continues to fuel Doron’s unremitting commitment to securing the best for Israel’s disabled community. As you might imagine, Doron needs all the inspiration he can muster as challenges abound daily.

Among the most disturbing of these challenges is his status as a supposed “war criminal” in the United Kingdom.

In a flashback to 2008, Doron was once again forced to cancel an ALEH charity event in London this past week for fear that his attendance would end in his arrest. This was a real possibility due to an absurd British law that gives the country’s citizens the ability to request warrants for the arrest of foreign war criminals, whether those foreigners have been officially convicted of war crimes or not. This has become a key tactic of anti-Israel activists in the UK.

Though the law was supposedly rectified earlier this year, loopholes still exist that make travel to the UK a risky affair for former Israeli defense officials.

While this act of cowardice left me livid and indignant, Doron didn’t waste any time being angry. He simply moved on.

Instead of letting setbacks bring him down, Doron reflects on a career spent overcoming adversity. He remembers the difficulties faced while protecting Israeli citizens from Palestinian terrorists, the logistical nightmares that surrounded airlifting Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and the dangers encountered while rescuing kidnapped Jews in Uganda and seeking out the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich massacre. He meditates over these episodes often to remind himself that no matter how daunting an obstacle may seem, they are not insurmountable.

What’s more, these hurdles remind him just how important it is to charge forward on behalf of all those Israeli children, like his beloved Eran, who will never fully move beyond their own obstacles.

As Doron intimates regularly, our commitment to care for the disabled members of society remains immeasurably more difficult than any military campaign he – or anyone else – has ever led. But we must persevere and do whatever necessary in order to provide them with the care that they deserve, because, in the end, our generation will be judged by how well we complete this mission.

When a war hero is asked about his greatest strength, one wouldn’t necessarily expect him to say “composure.”

But Doron’s ability to remain positive, reflective and in control is, in fact, his trademark. It guided him through a storied military career, and gives him the strength to weather storms of adversity, animosity and anti-Semitism and never lose sight of his goals.

Israel’s disabled community is lucky to have a champion like Doron Almog.

And we are all just as lucky to have him as a role model.

If you are anything like me, you felt a deep sense of outrage when reading about Doron’s cancelled charity event in London. You may have also been sincerely disappointed that in the 21st century a Jewish leader could still be subjected to unfair and unwarranted discrimination.

Yet, if you are anything like me, you also realize that there is a silver lining.

We have been reminded that heroes walk among us, both on and off the battlefield.

And that if we emulate their commitment and composure we can overcome any obstacle and reach even the loftiest goals. Thanks to Doron, I’ve set my sights high.

The writer is the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel and a board member of ALEH (www.aleh.org), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. ALEH provides over 650 children from around Israel with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in an effort to help them reach their full potential.
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