Nature isn’t always kind, and too often deprives people of one or more faculties
and impedes mobility. Sometimes this is done at birth. Sometimes it is the
outcome of an illness or an accident. Whatever the reason, it leaves people
mentally or physically challenged – and that’s where Etgarim, the Hebrew word
for challenges comes in.
The mission of Etgarim – The Israel Association
for the Disabled, is to to integrate the mentally and physically challenged into
One of the ways Etgarim is doing this is through
sport and specifically running. By overcoming challenges that arise when
running, members encourage each other to continue to do better.
to trainer Guy Ben-Dror, they are like one big family, drawn together in
camaraderie and making hugely courageous efforts in their desire to prove
themselves to themselves and to others.
On Wednesday, the Jerusalem
branch of Etgarim, before taking off on a run, called on President Shimon Peres
to wish him well in the coming New Year and to receive his blessing. Dressed in
bright orange T-shirts featuring the Etgarim logo in Hebrew and in English, very
few of them bore any outward signs of any kind of disability.
Some of the
participants were visually impaired, but their dissabilities were only given
away by the presence of a seeing eye dog and volunteers.
67, began to lose his sight 40 years ago, but betrayed no sign of being
Golding has been running with Etgarim since its founding in 1995
and told Peres what a lift it gives him to be able to run. Presenting the
president with an Etgarim Tshirt, Golding admitted that without the many
volunteers who come to spur the members to ever greater heights, he wouldn’t be
able to do it.
Before meeting with the group, Peres had a private meeting
with member Dina Douani – whose vision impairment is only given away by her
measured movements – and Etgarim general manager Avner Balkanai.
Peres entered the reception hall arm in arm with Douani, it was uncertain which
of the two was leading the other.
Peres told the Etgarim group that it
was inspiring to be in their company and urged them that regardless of the blow
dealt to them by nature to never accept it as a final edict. They must never
give up hope, he said, because science is working all the time to find
solutions. Peres related how during his visit to the Google TLV campus earlier
in the week, he had seen a wonderful development that will prove invaluable to
He also praised the volunteers for their selflessness and
noted the essential role that volunteerism plays in Israeli life.