Running to the challenge

The Israel Association for the Disabled 'Etgarim' wish Shimon Peres good luck for the new year.

Peres at his 90th birthday 370 (photo credit: Koby Gidon/GPO)
Peres at his 90th birthday 370
(photo credit: Koby Gidon/GPO)
Nature isn’t always kind, and too often deprives people of one or more faculties and impedes mobility. Sometimes this is done at birth. Sometimes it is the outcome of an illness or an accident. Whatever the reason, it leaves people mentally or physically challenged – and that’s where Etgarim, the Hebrew word for challenges comes in.
The mission of Etgarim – The Israel Association for the Disabled, is to to integrate the mentally and physically challenged into mainstream society.
One of the ways Etgarim is doing this is through sport and specifically running. By overcoming challenges that arise when running, members encourage each other to continue to do better.
According to trainer Guy Ben-Dror, they are like one big family, drawn together in camaraderie and making hugely courageous efforts in their desire to prove themselves to themselves and to others.
On Wednesday, the Jerusalem branch of Etgarim, before taking off on a run, called on President Shimon Peres to wish him well in the coming New Year and to receive his blessing. Dressed in bright orange T-shirts featuring the Etgarim logo in Hebrew and in English, very few of them bore any outward signs of any kind of disability.
Some of the participants were visually impaired, but their dissabilities were only given away by the presence of a seeing eye dog and volunteers.
Yossi Golding, 67, began to lose his sight 40 years ago, but betrayed no sign of being blind.
Golding has been running with Etgarim since its founding in 1995 and told Peres what a lift it gives him to be able to run. Presenting the president with an Etgarim Tshirt, Golding admitted that without the many volunteers who come to spur the members to ever greater heights, he wouldn’t be able to do it.
Before meeting with the group, Peres had a private meeting with member Dina Douani – whose vision impairment is only given away by her measured movements – and Etgarim general manager Avner Balkanai.
When Peres entered the reception hall arm in arm with Douani, it was uncertain which of the two was leading the other.
Peres told the Etgarim group that it was inspiring to be in their company and urged them that regardless of the blow dealt to them by nature to never accept it as a final edict. They must never give up hope, he said, because science is working all the time to find solutions. Peres related how during his visit to the Google TLV campus earlier in the week, he had seen a wonderful development that will prove invaluable to the blind.
He also praised the volunteers for their selflessness and noted the essential role that volunteerism plays in Israeli life.