‘You are Israel’s heartbeat’

Peres blesses some 200 disabled IDF veterans who came from all across country before Jerusalem Torch Race.

Peres with IDF veterans (photo credit: President’s Spokesman)
Peres with IDF veterans
(photo credit: President’s Spokesman)
They came from many parts of the country to Jerusalem; men and women who had fought in Israel’s wars and come away from battle less whole than when they had been called to arms.
Some were in wheelchairs, some wore leg braces. Others walked with the aid of canes or crutches and some, though bearing lifelong scars, had no visible evidence of their injuries.
They were all disabled IDF veterans who had come to the President’s Residence to receive the blessing of President Shimon Peres before setting out on the annual Jerusalem Torch Race, they numbered some 200 veterans.
It’s not a race in the usual sense of the word. Winning is not a matter of beating all the other contestants but a matter of simply getting there, a matter of beating oneself against the odds.
The idea was to make it from the President’s Residence to Beit Halohem (the House of the Warrior) adjacent to the Biblical Zoo in the capital’s Malha neighborhood.
The problem was that rain washed out all hope of racing.
Still, they were promised a hearty lunch at Beit Halohem and those who didn’t have their own means of transport were taken by one of several buses that had brought in people from out of town.
Haim Bar, the chairman of the IDF Disabled Veterans Association, observed that the modern State of Israel had been born in battle, and said that he wanted to pay tribute to all the pioneer soldiers who fought to establish a state in which there was no discrimination on grounds of gender, religion or race.
Hanukka was deliberately chosen as the time for the annual get-together he said, because it was the courage and the spirit of the ancient Maccabees that inspired the soldiers of the contemporary Israeli army.
“Every generation has to fight its own Antiochus,” he said, noting that even after 65 years of statehood, Israel still had to struggle to maintain her existence.
Looking out at the crowd Bar said, “There are so many personal stories here of courage, commitment and camaraderie.”
“The soldiers and what they fought for are the story of the history of the nation. This human capital is the treasure of the nation,” he said, adding that over the last five years Beit Halohem has made tremendous strides towards preserving the dignity of the veterans and enabling them to live as normal a life as possible – including contributing to society to the best of their abilities.
Peres was even more eloquent than Bar, telling the veterans “you are the heartbeat of the people of Israel.”
It seemed a moving experience for him to meet with the disabled veterans, who he said are more than a symbol. They are the backbone of the nation.
Not only had they faced enemy fire with courage, he said, but continued in an eternal war for each day of their lives to confront their injuries with courage; “each of you is a paradigm, a fine example of volunteerism and national pride.”