Like many other young Israeli boys, 20 year-old Yinon Refaeli has dreamt of serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since he was a child. The challenge for Rafaeli is that he suffers from cerebral palsy (CP) and cannot speak.
This never stopped Rafaeli from seeking out ways to show his dedication to his dream. “Every Purim he dressed up as a police officer or soldier,” said Yinon’s mother, Batya Rafaeli. “He would always approach soldiers on the street to talk to them and find out more about the military.”
Today marks one year that Rafaeli’s dream has come true. “Yinon’s school has a program so that anyone can have the opportunity to join the army,” Batya Rafali said. He has been reporting for duty as an IDF soldier every Wednesday at an army office.
After his weekly army service, Rafaeli attends a program at the Shalva center in Jerusalem. “They love him at Shalva,” Batya Rafaeli said. “They were very excited when they saw him in his IDF uniform.”
Shalva programs provide care to mentally and physically challenged children in Israel. Rafaeli has been attending Shalva programs since he was 6 years-old. “There is nothing like Shalva,” said Roni Rafaeli, Yinon’s father. “They helped him with everything. He can walk, he can talk with a computer when he is at Shalva and he can eat alone.”
Rafaeli is proud to wear the IDF uniform and contribute to the State of Israel – in his own way.