Israel, Hamas, and Special Needs Children
Yesterday I wrote an article that ended with a suggestion to Hamas. The suggestion was, just stop trying to kill us, and be prepared to be amazed at how wonderful your lives will become.
You say you want the siege lifted?
The sanctions, which you call a siege, were put in place, as a non-lethal method of getting you to stop trying to kill us!
You say you want to improve the lot of the Palestinian people who are suffering in Gaza?
Just stop trying to kill to kill us, and you can become the Singapore of the Middle East!
Evidently Hamas didn’t read the article or, having read it, decided not to heed its advice.
Five minutes after I left the Eshkol group of agricultural communities, Hamas violated the latest cease-fire by launching a mortar attack against an Israeli farming village.
They killed four people, all soldiers.
According to Hamas spokesman Abu Odeh, “Hamas never targets civilians. It only targets Jews.”
By that reckoning, they hit their targets, as planned.
Then by the end of the day there was the announcement that ten soldiers had been killed in the last twenty-four hours. Five of them were killed stopping a group of terrorists who popped up out of a homicide tunnel a few hundred meters from an Israeli civilian agricultural community. The five soldiers gave their lives, not to establish a Caliphate, nor to get it on with 72 virgins in Paradise, nor to preserve any occupation, since we unilaterally ended the occupation of Gaza almost ten years ago in order to “Give peace a chance.” Those five soldiers gave their lives to save people, whose only crime was being Jews .
The news today has been full of announcement after announcement of their funerals. I haven’t the stomach to write about these young lives so senselessly cut short.
I once wrote a line in a movie called Wyatt Earp, where a father says to his bereaved son, “You gotta tighten up on your tears, boy.”
That’s where we are right now.
To every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Right now is the time for us to tighten up on our tears and complete the mission, to deal with the tunnels and degrade Hamas’ s offensive capabilities, so our citizens can live their lives without the threat of constant rocket and terrorist tunnel attacks.
Every day that I write, I try to figure out exactly what my specific mission is for that day. It invariably comes down to the same thing; to put the lie to the notion that there is a moral equivalence between a terrorist organization like Hamas and the democratic State of Israel; that somehow, in defending ourselves against their ceaseless terrorist attacks against our civilian population, we are the war criminals.
Never mind the fact that we have accepted five cease fires, all of which they have rejected and/or violated.
Never mind the fact they have spent hundred of millions of dollars, and the cement and steel that was meant to" rebuild Gaza" not to build shelters for their people, but to dig terrorist tunnels beneath our borders, in order to murder ours.
Never mind any of that.
Ask yourself what, exactly, is the rationale for that particular, non LSD induced, trip through the looking glass?
It is the disproportion between the number of Israeli to Palestinian casualties.
(Note to self. The reason there aren’t a thousand dead Jews from the thousands of rocket attacks launched against us, is because we invented an anti-missile defense system called Iron Dome which intercepts ninety percent of their rockets. And in those places that Iron Dome doesn’t cover, we’ve built air raid shelters every fifty meters, while Hamas has purposely placed their rocket launchers and terrorist tunnel openings in their own civilian neighborhoods, thus, turning them into military targets.)
Our crime is evidently, in not allowing our civilians to be killed in sufficient numbers.
And for those who want to talk about disproportionate responses, they might want to consider the fact that twice as many Germans were killed in World War II as Brits and Americans put together.
Does that mean that someone owes an apology to Hitler? Or that FDR should have been hauled before an International tribunal as a war criminal? And trust me Hamas proudly proclaims that it has no kinder intentions toward the Jews than Hitler did.
But nothing so much illustrates the difference between Hams and us as the experience I had today.
In Jewish tradition there are thirty-six righteous individuals whose good deeds support the entire world and literally preserve our collective humanity from destruction through their righteousness.
I met one of those thirty-six righteous individuals today.
His name is Doron Almog.
He is a war criminal.
Five members of the Almog family, Ze’ev ( 71) Ruth ( 70) Moshe( 43) and Tomer( 9 ) and Assaf ( 11) were killed in the suicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant October 4, 2003. Another member of the family, Oren ( 10) was seriously injured and blinded.
But remember Doron Almog is the war criminal.
Doron Almog, as a commander of one of Israel’s most elite commando units, participated in the hostage rescue at Entebbe.
He helped save 7000 Ethiopian Jews by being one of the commanders in a secret airlift operation from the Sudan, which brought them from almost certain death to new life in Israel.
And as General of the Southern Command, Almog secured the border of Gaza from 2000-2003 from Palestinian terrorists.
And what exactly is the war crime of which the British firm of Hickman& Rose Solicitors (London) filed an arrest warrant, which was subsequently signed by a British Magistrate and almost resulted in Almog’s arrest when he arrived on a visit to London? Amongst other things, while General of Southern Command Almog was in charge of an operation which assassinated one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, Salach Schadah, who had killed some 94 Israelis.
Sounds like an open and shut case to me.
Let me tell you a little about Doron Almog. I went to interview him to get his assessment of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. He is as good a source for comment as anyone on the planet today, and he said a lot of really smart and interesting things. But there are a lot of guys saying a lot of smart and interesting things. And today to tell you the truth I’m kind of sick of talking about the war.
Almog was in line to become Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, which would have been the crowning achievement of a thirty year military career. According to one and all, he was a sure thing to get the appointment of the position that every Israeli officer above the rank of Colonel yearns for. And he did the one thing that no one expected of him, this war criminal.
He resigned from the military in order to build the most extraordinary village for special needs individuals that exists anywhere in the world today.
You see Almog’s son, Eran, was born with severe brain damage. He lacked connective tissue between the two halves of his brain and was, as a result, severely autistic. He never learned to say a single word. Not Abba (Daddy) or Imma (Mommy). And yet, Almog told me today, “He was my greatest teacher. He taught me more than anyone in my life.’
“Let me just get this straight,” I said. “You retired from the military when you were about to achieve the pinnacle of your career in order to dream up and build a village for special needs individuals?”
“Yes,” he said.
“I don’t know,’ he said. “I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. I just listened to my heart.”
“And what did it say?”
“That there were a lot of smart guys who could be Chief of Staff , but that if I didn’t build this village, no one would do it. And I knew I could. So I did.”
And what a village it is!
“We wanted to build a kind of Paradise for these people, who, you know, are the purest people on earth. They have never hurt anyone, never told a lie, never murdered anyone, never did one evil deed. And they are the most helpless people in society. So I think our country, any country, but my country included, is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable amongst us. I received a letter when my son Eran turned 18 that after the age of 21 the government had no programs left for him. None. And that is the case in almost every country, even the most enlightened on earth. Then the family has to decide, can they continue to take care of someone severely disabled, because if not, they must be placed in an institution or a convalescent hospital, where they will never improve and, really, where they are hidden away from society, as if we are ashamed of them. So we built this village, which has a rehabilitative center where we not only treat special needs people but also people, you know, who were in an accident, had a brain injury, or a stroke. We mix the population between so called normal people and special needs. And we have a kindergarten here for forty five children.”
“Special needs children?” I asked.
“ No. Not disabled children at all. Mainstream children. Normal children.
“Because if we have forty-five children, that means we have forty- five families who come here every day and in the halls, you know, they see our special needs children and adults, and they see there’s nothing to be afraid of, no one to be ashamed of, and they get to know each other and our residents become like their families and they don’t just accept them. They know them, like friends. And those who were in an accident and need rehabilitation, the same thing. Our special needs people are not hidden away. This is their community and we share it with the larger community, and the things that help them to rehabilitate could help you if G-d forbid you were in an accident or had a stroke And we have a program where we bring convicts from prison, and they take care of our special needs children and it suddenly changes their whole lives! It’s amazing, in helping others they help themselves. And we have a research facility and a petting zoo and horses for them to ride and for those who can’t ride we build a special wagon, so even in a wheel chair you can get in and the horse pulls you.”
He introduces me to Maya the speech rehabilitative therapist. I ask her how they teach special needs or stroke or brain injured patients how to talk again.
“We don’t teach them,” she says. "They teach us. Every person on this earth has a right to communicate and the ability to say what they want or don’t want. If they can’t do it with words maybe it’s a hand gesture or a shake of the head or maybe the way they blink. So first we let them teach us how they communicate. Then we adapt our method to their ability. Maybe they can touch an iPad with a picture on it, maybe it’s not words you will hear, but it is communication and now they make their lives richer. And our lives, because someone now understands them.”
I ask if the war has affected them.
Without any bitterness, with only a professional soldier’s cool detachment Almog says, “They have targeted us twice and they have hit us twice.”
“Hamas targeted a special needs village?!”
“Once they hit one of the dormitories and the other time they hit the petting zoo.”
“And what happened?”
“Some damage” he says matter of factly. “When the war started we took all our residents out of their rooms and now they stay all day and sleep in the shelter. It’s crowded but we do the best we can. We adapt.”
Maya says” The worst thing for a special needs person is to change their routine. Because that’s very important to them. It bothers them, creates a lot of anxiety. And then we had to teach them new words, new concepts.”
She shows me a set of pictures she wears around her neck to communicate with her kid and adult patients. “ This picture shows an ear and you know sound waves. It means we listen for the air raid sirens. This is a picture that shows if we hear the siren we go into the shelter and we wait. And this picture shows that then we sing a song. And after the song or maybe two songs, however long it is until the attack is over, we come out.”
The village is the most advanced and innovative of its kind in the world. It’s called Aleh Hanegev and it’s dedicated to Doron Almog’s son, Eran, who died at the age of 23, and taught the whole world to listen, without ever learning to speak a word.
If you’re looking for something to make a donation to this is the place
Their website is www.aleh.org.
Do it. It’ll make you feel like a mensch.
Now let me tell you a short story about the people who have initiated this war, Hamas. A few years ago, they strapped a suicide belt on a special needs Palestinian teen aged boy, and sent him to an Israeli check point to blow himself up.
The soldiers at the check point ordered him to stop. When they saw he was just a teen-aged boy and appeared to have difficulty understanding them they told him to slowly open his jacket. He did and they saw the suicide belt. It was obvious that the boy was a special needs kid. He began to cry and said he didn’t want to die. The soldiers helped him get out of the suicide belt and he lived, much to Hamas’s disappointment.
That’s Hamas, and that’s Doron Almog and the Israeli people who built a paradise on earth for Special needs patients, called Aleh Hanegev.
And Almog and we are supposedly the war criminals.