PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and his wife, Nechama, host a delegation of volunteer soldiers with special needs yesterday.
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
While some people attempt to evade army service, there is a special group of young men and women who are fighting bureaucracy in their quest to be allowed to serve.
Eight volunteer soldiers with special needs – four males and four females – called on President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, on Thursday to present them with a Purim gift and to tell them how proud they were to be wearing their uniforms and their dog tags.
“It’s the realization of a dream” said Danielle Vaknin, who was part of a Lend a Hand to a Special Child project involving 250 young volunteers, of whom 50 were accepted for volunteer service in the IDF. The eight who came to the President’s Residence are all in the air force, most of them on the Palmahim base, working in accordance with their abilities in a range of spheres from computers to kitchen duty.
They were accompanied by Maj.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ofir, who has a special needs daughter and who more than a decade ago initiated the project to integrate people with special needs into the IDF and help them afterward to become part of mainstream society; Lt. (res.) Ariel Almog; and Rabbi Mendy Blinitzky, CEO of Lend a Hand to a Special Child.
Blinitzky said that the IDF is the only army in the world that accepts volunteer soldiers with special needs.
Ofir, Almog and the father of one of the soldiers each emphasized that everyone should be allowed to contribute what he or she is able to, and society should encourage them to do so. This aids their self-esteem and inspires others who look at the example set by these young people and say, “If they can do it, I can do it.”
Nechama Rivlin said that everyone has disabilities of some kind, some of which are obvious and some of which are not. President Rivlin added that these soldiers were not only people with special needs, but they were special people in their determination to contribute to the nation and to serve in the army.
He saluted Danielle Vaknin and she smartly returned the salute.