At a time when the media are rife with stories about young, healthy Israelis who shun military service, it was heart warming to learn about an IDF program which seeks to include, rather than exclude, a segment of the population one would not expect to make it into mainstream Israeli society, much less into full military service.
We thank the IDF Spokesperson’s Office blog for the following report.
Lt. Col. Ariel Almog, founder of the “Magshimim Halom” (Realizing a Dream) project for special needs soldiers, served for 28 years in the IDF Artillery Corps. In 2001, he was severely wounded. While in hospital, he met soldiers and patients who had suffered from severe psychological trauma. That’s when he knew that he wanted to do something to help people who didn’t fit into a regular IDF framework find a way to contribute.
A few years later, the “Magshimim Halom – Mitgaysim leTzahal” (“Realizing a Dream – Enlisting in the IDF”) project was born. Ariel, then a commander in the Home Front Command, decided to give young people with special needs the opportunity to serve on his base.
“We dismantle gas masks and sort all the different parts of the mask, which we then send for repairs,” says Daniella, a soldier who works in the warehouse. “All the soldiers do the same job, whether they have special needs or not. This work used to be done by non-special needs soldiers, and frankly it was more complicated, because they were not as motivated.”
Thousands of Israelis are now benefiting from the hard work of Magshimim Halom’s soldiers.
Military service is an integral part of Israeli life, and Lt. Col. Almog could not accept that an entire segment of Israeli youth were not able to share this experience. ”Soldiers with special needs voluntarily commit to serve their country for three years, just like their peers,” he says. “They have the full support of their families, who see this program as a great opportunity for their children.”
Magshimim Halom’s more than thirty soldiers all live together. Some work in a warehouse, and the rest in the kitchen or in the base office. Their instructors are with them at every stage, available to help them deal with any problem they may encounter.
“When they arrive, some of the soldiers do not have the capacity to eat or bathe alone,” says Lt. Col. Almog. “With time and the help of the instructors, they become independent, even at work.”
“Magshimim Halom soldiers who have finished their service now work for private companies,” says Aviva, one of the instructors. “Working here allows them to progress and gives them confidence.”
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