by: Jay Ruderman
Today and tomorrow highlight life in Israel: Tragedy and triumph. Today is Israel’s Memorial Day, where we remember and shed tears for the 25,578 people who fell in defense of the country. Tomorrow we rejoice as we celebrate Israel’s 65th Independence Day, the amazing rebirth of the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland.
Our foundation is proud to have Israel as a base of activities. Over the last five years, we have worked tirelessly towards the full inclusion of all Israeli citizens with disabilities into society. The latest studies estimate that there are approximately 1,000,000 people of working age with disabilities living in Israel- there is much work still to be done.
One program we are proud of is the AKIM program to allow youth with intellectual disabilities the ability to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Here is part of what we wrote when we awarded them the 2012 Ruderman Prize in Disability last year:
“For most young Israelis, service in the IDF is a normal part of life in the years between high school and college. Service becomes a core rite of passage in Israeli society and an empowering, transformative experience. AKIM is working now to make that experience open to people with intellectual disabilities, enabling them to perform significant supportive and productive tasks as part of IDF service. This project works with both the individual and the rest of the military unit to maximize adjustment and success.
Ultimately, inclusive IDF service will instill a sense of achievement and pride in all people with intellectual disabilities in Israel.”
The program has been a success- the soldiers with disabilities adapted well and the benefits for both the soldiers and the army were very evident. The IDF has now proposed to initiate a recruitment process in order to offer civil positions within the army and opportunity of permanent enlistment in the standing army to the released soldiers with disabilities.
As Israel moves forward, we will continue to impact and strengthen Israeli society, a society which will become fully inclusive and everyone can contribute.
Read our last post: Thinking About Siblings