What's so Special about Special in Uniform?
The American Jewish understanding of the Israel Defense Forces goes something like this: everybody has to serve in the IDF, even women, and they have one of the strongest armies in the world.
But what happens if a young Israeli adult does not develop “typically”? What if they spend their academic years in special education classes? In the past that meant they were automatically locked out of serving their country.
But a few determined individuals saw the injustice of keeping a segment of the population out of the military and fought hard to change the system. These retired IDF career men knew all about what it takes to run a strong military and they believed integrating people with disabilities into the defense forces could be successful with the proper planning and support. The Jewish National Fund, after learning about the difference this could make for countless people throughout Israel, teamed up to assist in this important endeavor.
On a hot summer day, my family and I were honored with an invitation to visit an Air Force Base to witness a unit of Special in Uniform at work. Our host, Tiran Attia, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF spoke to us about the positive difference this army program makes not just for the individuals with special needs, but for their families, for the other soldiers who work alongside them, and for society as a whole. It was such an honor to share with them the beautiful Letters of Friendship received from Israel Forever's Virtual of Citizen of Israel global community.
These young adults, some who have suffered abuse during their young lives, some who have been pampered and taken care of their whole lives, all, who society had been telling they would not be able to accomplish what almost every other young adult in Israel accomplishes, army service, are now given the opportunity to contribute using their personal talents. Attia explained to us that each individual is evaluated throughout the process to ensure that they are being given every opportunity to succeed and to serve as a benefit to their commander and unit. The focus of Special in Uniform is put on the abilities these young people possess not on the disabilities they may be struggling with.
What did I witness during the few hours I was there? I saw young people standing tall and proud in their IDF uniforms. I saw these young adults working together smiling and cooperating with each other. I saw them joking with their supervisors. When they interacted with me and my family they were friendly and excited to share stories with us about the work that they perform. Seeing how happy they were in their uniforms, I can imagine the joy and pride their families and friends feel.
As someone who is proud and thankful for the bravery of the IDF this program made me feel even more so. This is a beautiful tribute to the Jewish values of not placing a stumbling block before the blind and for respecting life. The JNF, the IDF, and the team at Special in Uniform are working together to ensure a better future for all of Israel.
To learn more about Specials in Uniform, click HERE.
Inclusion: Something to think about
1. How does Special in Uniform change your idea of what it means to be a soldier?
2. Have you ever worn a uniform? How did it make you feel?
3. What can the militaries of other countries do to include more people with disabilities?
4. What steps can you take to provide people with disabilities more opportunities for success?
Heidi Krizer Daroff enjoys sharing her passion for Israel with others as North America Director of The Israel Forever Foundation. While her passport indicates that she does not reside in Israel, her heart definitely does. Through her storytelling, Heidi invites you to grow your involvement and add more Israel Forever into your daily life.