Hands 521 .
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Last Monday, a wonderful family prepared to accompany their mother, Margalit, on
her final journey. It was exactly five years after the family’s son/grandson
passed away at a young age after having suffered from severe autism his entire
Just as this family did, thousands of others in Israel face the
tremendous challenges of raising special-needs children. But this family, the
Almogs, turned this difficulty into a wondrous journey that changed their lives,
and the lives of thousands of others.
I had the privilege of getting to
know Brig.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, his wife, Didi, and her mother,
Margalit Hed, through the non-profit organization Aleh. The family first became
acquainted with Aleh following the birth of their son, Eran, who was born with a
severe case of Castleman disease. The Almogs enveloped Eran with tremendous love
his entire life.
They stood by his side even though they knew he would
never be able to return their love. When Doron retired from the IDF after a long
and illustrious career, he decided to dedicate his strengths and talents to
creating a framework that would offer a real and comprehensive solution for
those suffering from this illness and others with severe brain damage – an
advanced treatment village that would include the best professional knowledge
and the greatest warmth the human heart can provide.
Doron and Didi
dedicated themselves to founding the treatment village, sweeping many along with
them with their endless enthusiasm, harnessing the aid of many dear partners.
For many years, they worked tirelessly in Israel and abroad to advance the
establishment of the village, which integrates the treatment and social vision,
along with the vision of settling the Negev – a vision of the State of Israel’s
since its establishment.
It is hard to describe the intensity of emotion
we all felt on the day Aleh Negev was dedicated. The image of these young men
and women, who would never be able to express gratitude to their caretakers, but
who wished to express their joy in their own way, was an immensely moving
experience. It was wonderful seeing these youngsters and their families get what
they rightly deserved.
Doron once said, as though in the name of his son
Eran: “You can tell everyone what an excellent general you are. But I measure
you by what you can provide [for] me even though you will never be proud of me.
I will never be a professor, and I will not go up to the Torah for my bar
mitzva. I will never be accepted to the Israel Air Force or guard at the gate of
an army base. I will never get married or have children. I will never call you
Daddy. In the terminology of an achievement-oriented society, I – your son – am
nothing, zero, air. But if you choose to ignore me, it says nothing about me. It
says everything about you.”
Eran passed away after being at the village
for only a short time. Margalit, of blessed memory – his grandmother who loved
him so much – passed away five years later, on the day of his passing. For me,
it was symbolic, and her being laid to rest in a cemetery plot adjacent to her
grandson’s was no coincidence, but an expression of the significant tie that was
even more spiritual than it was biological.
Doron and Didi continue their
life’s mission daily, over months and years. Their actions speak louder than a
thousand witnesses. I see them as teachers of the Torah of grace, charity and
giving to another; the vivid fulfillment of the G-d given commandment “you must
Few are the people who have found in their souls the inner
strength to translate their life’s difficulties into action and creativity, not
only for their loved ones, but for many others.
On Monday, wonderful
people stood around Margalit Hed’s bed; people who are making the State of
Israel and the entire world a better place. It was a great privilege to stand
with them. They awaken in me both inspiration and faith that when faced with
difficulty and pain one can raise their head high and respond with positive
action for another. This is what I wish to convey to you, the readers of these
lines.The author is the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.