They came from many parts of the country to Jerusalem; men and women who had
fought in Israel’s wars and come away from battle less whole than when they had
been called to arms.
Some were in wheelchairs, some wore leg braces.
Others walked with the aid of canes or crutches and some, though bearing
lifelong scars, had no visible evidence of their injuries.
They were all
disabled IDF veterans who had come to the President’s Residence to receive the
blessing of President Shimon Peres before setting out on the annual Jerusalem
Torch Race, they numbered some 200 veterans.
It’s not a race in the usual
sense of the word. Winning is not a matter of beating all the other contestants
but a matter of simply getting there, a matter of beating oneself against the
The idea was to make it from the President’s Residence to Beit
Halohem (the House of the Warrior) adjacent to the Biblical Zoo in the capital’s
The problem was that rain washed out all hope of
Still, they were promised a hearty lunch at Beit Halohem and
those who didn’t have their own means of transport were taken by one of several
buses that had brought in people from out of town.
Haim Bar, the chairman
of the IDF Disabled Veterans Association, observed that the modern State of
Israel had been born in battle, and said that he wanted to pay tribute to all
the pioneer soldiers who fought to establish a state in which there was no
discrimination on grounds of gender, religion or race.
deliberately chosen as the time for the annual get-together he said, because it
was the courage and the spirit of the ancient Maccabees that inspired the
soldiers of the contemporary Israeli army.
“Every generation has to fight
its own Antiochus,” he said, noting that even after 65 years of statehood,
Israel still had to struggle to maintain her existence.
Looking out at
the crowd Bar said, “There are so many personal stories here of courage,
commitment and camaraderie.”
“The soldiers and what they fought for are
the story of the history of the nation. This human capital is the treasure of
the nation,” he said, adding that over the last five years Beit Halohem has made
tremendous strides towards preserving the dignity of the veterans and enabling
them to live as normal a life as possible – including contributing to society to
the best of their abilities.
Peres was even more eloquent than Bar,
telling the veterans “you are the heartbeat of the people of Israel.”
seemed a moving experience for him to meet with the disabled veterans, who he
said are more than a symbol. They are the backbone of the
Not only had they faced enemy fire with courage, he said, but
continued in an eternal war for each day of their lives to confront their
injuries with courage; “each of you is a paradigm, a fine example of
volunteerism and national pride.”
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