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A family of grace
JERUSALEM POST – Feb 25, 2012
By RABBI SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
Last Monday, a wonderful family prepared to accompany their mother, Margalit, on her final journey. It was exactly five years after the family’s son/grandson passed away at a young age after having suffered from severe autism his entire life.
Just as this family did, thousands of others in Israel face the tremendous challenges of raising special-needs children. But this family, the Almog’s, turned this difficulty into a wondrous journey that changed their lives, and the lives of thousands of others.
I had the privilege of getting to know Brig.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, his wife, Didi, and her mother, Margalit Hed, through the non-profit organization ALEH. The family first became acquainted with ALEH following the birth of their son, Eran, who was born with a severe case of Castleman disease. The Almog’s enveloped Eran with tremendous love his entire life.
They stood by his side even though they knew he would never be able to return their love. When Doron retired from the IDF after a long and illustrious career, he decided to dedicate his strengths and talents to creating a framework that would offer a real and comprehensive solution for those suffering from this illness and others with severe brain damage – an advanced treatment village that would include the best professional knowledge and the greatest warmth the human heart can provide.
Doron and Didi dedicated themselves to founding the treatment village, sweeping many along with them with their endless enthusiasm, harnessing the aid of many dear partners. For many years, they worked tirelessly in Israel and abroad to advance the establishment of the village, which integrates the treatment and social vision, along with the vision of settling the Negev – a vision of the State of Israel’s since its establishment.
It is hard to describe the intensity of emotion we all felt on the day ALEH Negev was dedicated. The image of these young men and women, who would never be able to express gratitude to their caretakers, but who wished to express their joy in their own way, was an immensely moving experience. It was wonderful seeing these youngsters and their families get what they rightly deserved.
Doron once said, as though in the name of his son Eran: “You can tell everyone what an excellent general you are. But I measure you by what you can provide [for] me even though you will never be proud of me. I will never be a professor, and I will not go up to the Torah for my bar mitzvah. I will never be accepted to the Israel Air Force or guard at the gate of an army base. I will never get married or have children. I will never call you Daddy. In the terminology of an achievement-oriented society, I – your son – am nothing, zero, air. But if you choose to ignore me, it says nothing about me. It says everything about you.”
Eran passed away after being at the village for only a short time. Margalit, of blessed memory – his grandmother who loved him so much – passed away five years later, on the day of his passing. For me, it was symbolic, and her being laid to rest in a cemetery plot adjacent to her grandson’s was no coincidence, but an expression of the significant tie that was even more spiritual than it was biological.
Doron and Didi continue their life’s mission daily, over months and years. Their actions speak louder than a thousand witnesses. I see them as teachers of the Torah of grace, charity and giving to another; the vivid fulfillment of the G-d given commandment “you must not ignore.”
Few are the people who have found in their souls the inner strength to translate their life’s difficulties into action and creativity, not only for their loved ones, but for many others.
On Monday, wonderful people stood around Margalit Hed’s bed; people who are making the State of Israel and the entire world a better place. It was a great privilege to stand with them. They awaken in me both inspiration and faith that when faced with difficulty and pain one can raise their head high and respond with positive action for another. This is what I wish to convey to you, the readers of these lines.
The author is the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.
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