Walking in spite of disability: ‘Everyone can enlist’

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Participants of the 'Special in Uniform' program taking part in the ceremony (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)

Special-needs soldiers took part in the IDF’s Memorial Day Ceremony and spoke about what it means to them: ‘I know what I’m wort,h and now I’m showing all of Israel,’ said Cpl. Etti Harel

The IDF’s Memorial Day ceremony on Tuesday in Jerusalem included members of the “Special in Uniform” program, special-needs soldiers who comprise their own army unit.

The program includes some 250 soldiers who are selected to volunteer for six months before completing a three-year army service.

“The idea behind the program is to show that they’re just like everybody else,” said the program head Lt. Col. Ariel Almog. “To our guys, in any case, it gives the feeling that they’re doing their part just like any other citizen in the country.

Participants of the ‘Special in Uniform’ program taking part in the ceremony (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)

The “Lend a Hand to a Special Child” association was the founder and initial driving force behind the “Special in Uniform” program.

Omer Lahat, one of the participants who marched in Tuesday’s ceremony, is currently in the volunteer stage of the program. “Today is the day the entire country remembers our soldiers,” he said, “which is why it’s so important to me to take part in the ceremony.”

Sapir Wiesel, another program participant who is currently serving at the Palmachim Base, said, “Serving in the army is a great source of pride for me,” adding, “It’s part of our entrance to Israeli society.”

A third participant, Cpl. Etti Harel, shared, “I’ve always wanted to serve in the army, but it was problematic. Some people thought that I have disabilities, that I have problems and a handicap. But I know what I’m worth and now I’m showing all of Israel what I can do. I want to show everyone that they can enlist.”

Jerusalem City Councilman and co-founder of the Wake Up movement Hanan Rubin said at the ceremony, “What qualifies our soldiers isn’t the ability to shoot a gun or charge forward, but something much deeper than that.”  

Almog summarized his feelings at the ceremony, “Seeing soldiers from elite units together with special-needs soldiers and civilians—that’s the truly beautiful face of Israel.”

The “Special in Uniform” program is carried out in cooperation with JNF.

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