A visit to the Israel Defense Forces’ Special in Uniform program was the highlight of a recent Friendship Circle mission to Israel to learn about achievements in the inclusion of people with disabilities into general society.
During a day at the Palmachim base, Exceptional Israel Ability Leadership Mission participants met commanders and volunteer soldiers of Special in Uniform. A joint project of the IDF and Jewish National Fund, Special in Uniform enables Israelis with disabilities to serve in the military.
“By partnering with programs like Special in Uniform, Jewish National Fund is opening the doors to acceptance and inclusion and changing the lives of thousands of children and their families every day,” said JNF Task Force on Disabilities director Yossi Kahana, who has a son with autism.
Atlantan Alan Wolk chairs the board of Special in Uniform USA.
Other soldiers who work alongside Special in Uniform volunteers see and share their daily lives and challenges, reinforcing the value of inclusion in Israel.
“I’ve been hearing about Special in Uniform for quite some time, but it’s nothing like seeing it firsthand,” said Michael Alessandri, the executive director of the University of Miami Center for Autism & Related Disabilities. “I am very excited to be here and learn how Israel is creating a more caring and inclusive society by promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in the IDF in a national level.”
The goal of the Friendship Circle mission was to connect groups and funders with leading research and technology supporting special needs in Israel, and at the end of Palmachim tour, the delegation met with two pilots, Yuval Wagner and Noam Gershony, who were wounded in action but refused to surrender. They now are advocates for integration, employment and accessibility in Israeli society.