The beginnings of the Paralympics go back to a rehabilitation hospital in England and Dr. Ludwig Gutmann, who believed in sport-therapy as a powerful way to improve the quality of life of disabled people – especially World War II veterans. 1960 saw Rome hosting the first international Paralympic Games.

Israel had the honor of hosting the Paralympics in 1968. I was then in ninth grade. My youth movement was asked to help out with the competing disabled athletes from around the world – so that even before I became a paralympic competitor myself, I was aware and proud of the games and Israel’s role in supporting them.

The IDF Disabled Veterans Association and the ILAN charity have become leaders in training and supporting Israel’s paralympic athletes, whose success has brought great glory to our country. Sadly, government institutions do not invest enough money in advancing disabled athletes, causing many to cope with what I see as unnecessary disadvantages.

As head of the IDF Disabled Veterans Association and a leader in Israel’s paralympic sports, I have raised money to “fill in the gaps” as much as possible. I am proud of Israel’s 333 paralympic medals – an unmatched achievement for Israeli athletics.

After my injury, I participated in 1975 Stoke Mandeville games, as a preparation for the Canada Paralympics one year later. In 1976, I represented Israel in the shot put and discus throw. I was trained by the legendary Edna Medalia, of blessed memory. In 2004 and 2008, I headed the Israeli delegations to Athens and Beijing, respectively.

Israel’s participation in the games, alongside so many other countries – including those with whom we have no diplomatic relations, is a source of great pride. In my experience, sports have the unique ability to bring people together and break down barriers.

In 1993, at a London competition, I had the honor of meeting King Hussein of Jordan and enjoying his hospitality – and this was before the peace treaty between our two countries. Later, I visited the one of the princes in Aqaba. Both of these encounters were the fruit of the Paralympics.

My dream is to establish a region-wide sporting event for disabled veterans, including such countries as Egypt, Jordan, and others. This has the potential to serve as the basis for the advancement of warm bilateral relations with our neighbors.

I wish the Israeli delegation to the London 2012 Paralympics much success.

It is a great honor to represent our country. There is no more poignant moment than hearing our national anthem being played and seeing the Israeli flag waving at full mast.

Best wishes for much success!

The writer, an MK for Yisrael Beytenu, is a disabled IDF veteran, who represented Israel in the Paralympics in the past.

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