Jerry White 58.
(photo credit: courtesy)
Last year, when 12-year-old landmine survivor Daniel Yuval said he wanted to do
something to rid Israel of landmines, even he didn’t expect his call to action
to move a mountain of security. But Daniel’s wounded innocence prevailed and
Israel’s Ministry of Defense is now poised to clear the country of deadly
On Monday, the Knesset passed unprecedented legislation
to establish the first National Mine Action Authority responsible to remove up
to 90 percent of Israel’s outdated minefields. Within six months, Israel will
implement a systematic national plan to clear nearly one million mines from the
Golan Heights through the Jordan and Arava Valleys down to Eilat. The work of
humanitarian deminers will take several years and up to $70-90 million. But it
will save lives and limbs, while setting free valuable land held hostage for
Daniel became a national hero, hardly complaining after he
stepped on a mine last February, while running and laughing with his siblings in
the first snow of the Golan Heights. The Golan is the same mega-minefield where
I also lost my innocence and leg while camping and hiking 27 years ago. I first
met Daniel in his hospital room right after surgeries to amputate his lower
right leg. I expected to see a confused little boy crying in pain, distraught,
Instead, I met a biblical prince and a true leader. Daniel never
made his personal pain about himself, or about payback. For him, it was about
the next generation.
“How can we make sure this doesn’t happen to any
other children?” Working with this next-gen leader over the past twelve months
has been remarkable.
In record time, he learned to walk, kick-box and
play football with his new prosthesis, while earning top grades at school and
mastering enough English to represent our Mine-Free Campaign as a Youth
In December, he stunned over a hundred UN diplomats in Geneva
with his direct appeal for action, speaking with clarity and chutzpah to prime
ministers, ambassadors, media, schools and government officials alike. Israelis
have lived for too long with the constant threat of landmines – an invisible
weapon of terror that has claimed the lives and limbs of hundreds of individuals
over the years. We call landmines “weapons of mass destruction in slow motion”
because they’ve killed more people than nuclear, chemical and biological weapons
combined. They don’t really increase safety, they just block agricultural
development and access to natural and cultural heritage.
THE NEW landmine
law, which passed second and third Knesset readings on Monday, includes a
commitment from the government to dedicate NIS 27 million annually for
humanitarian mine action. It also represents a paradigm shift of sorts for the
military to work closely with affected communities, civil society, even with
international donors and the private sector.
A delegation from the US
State Department arrived this week to assess the needs of Israel’s nascent mine
action program and offer technical assistance. Since 1993, the United States has
provided more than $1.5 billion to help over 50 mine-contaminated countries
clear their minefields.
The “Mine-Free Israel” Campaign is the most
successful national campaign since “Don’t Pick the Wildflowers” in the
The resilience of Daniel Yuval was able to galvanize widespread
support from international organizations such as Roots of Peace and national
powerhouses such as Council for a Beautiful Israel, Association for Civil Rights
in Israel, and the Center of Regional Councils. Clearing mines became a call to
unity for politicians as well, rippling from a troika of early political
adopters: Tzachi Hanegbi, Matan Vilnai and Ronnie Bar-On, mobilizing every
political faction left to right, ultimately earning the blessing and budgetary
support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Why? Because, hopefully, we
can all agree with Daniel Yuval – it’s not about us.
It’s about the next
generation, working together to heal, to protect and to care for all the kids
put at risk by deadly conflict.
The writer is a global humanitarian and
recognized leader in the Nobel Peace Prizewinning International Campaign to Ban