Pre-army trainees help disabled classmate climb a mountain

The other pre-army program participants “see him and not the chair,” said Itay Mori's mother.

Hanaton pre-army program participants hike with Itay in a special wheelchair (courtesy Hanaton pre-army program)

Nineteen-year-old Itay Mori suffers from muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. This didn’t stop him from completing a 10 km. hike with the help of his new classmates from the Hanaton pre-army training program.

Participants hiked overnight to Kibbutz Hanaton, which hosts the program, and were joined by hundreds of the program’s graduates for the final ascent to the kibbutz. The hike culminated in a “swearing in” ceremony, where participants prepared to begin the intensive training program.

Mori completed the nighttime trek in a special wheelchair, pushed by his peers. A few of his classmates arrived at Hanaton early to practice using the chair, and ensure that he could join the hike, which is an important part of the program’s opening activities.

He said that despite “having concerns about the hike” he was “very excited and couldn’t wait to go and have new and empowering experiences.”

Mori is part of the Shibolim program that promotes inclusion in pre-army programs all over Israel. He was slated to start national service when he heard about the Hanaton pre-army program and decided to visit. “I connected to the atmosphere,” said Mori, who went on to say how excited he was to be exposed to new ideas and people different from himself.

Mori’s mother said that the program at Hanaton is a good fit for her son and that other participants “see him and not the chair.”

The Hanaton pre-army program was founded in 2012 in the spirit of Conservative Judaism and in association with the Masorti Movement. The program has participants from all over Israel and from all walks of life. Rabbi Yoav Ende, one of the founders of the program, said that it “strives to be the change we want to see in the world, and so the group of participants is extremely diverse.”

Gad Spector, the head of the program, said that inclusion of those with disabilities is important to the Hanaton program, which “is a leader in this field.”