Various Newspapers / On Thursday, March 31, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Major General (res.) Doron Almog, the Chairman of ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran, will receive the 2016 Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and contributions to society and the state. Major General Almog will accept his award in the presence of the Prime Minister, President, Knesset chairperson, and Supreme Court president at the closing event of Israel’s Independence Day activities on Thursday, May 12, 2016.
A decorated soldier, Almog gained renown for his role as the first Israeli paratrooper reconnaissance commander to land at the daring rescue mission in Entebbe in 1976, and later for his participation in Operation Moses, which brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s. As the head of the IDF’s Southern Command from 2000-2003, he protected Israel’s southern border from infiltration by terrorists from Gaza.
After retiring from the IDF, Almog joined forces with ALEH (www.ALEH.org), Israel’s foremost network of state-of-the-art facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, and dedicated his life to helping individuals with special needs live to their fullest potentials.
“Major General Doron Almog is an Israeli hero. He risked his life for the security of Israel and dedicated his life to Israeli society,” said Bennett during the announcement. “He fights on behalf of the most vulnerable members of Israeli society – he fought bravely for his son, may his memory be for a blessing, and he fought fearlessly to free the hostages at Entebbe, and was a commander of some of the IDF’s most elite units.”
Motivated by his son, Eran, who was born with severe autism and developmental delays, Almog helped establish ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran, the Negev-based rehabilitative village of ALEH. Memories of Eran, who lost his battle with Castleman’s disease in 2007 at the age of 23, fuels Almog to continue his commitment to securing the best possible care for Israel’s disabled community.
“This prize belongs to my son, Eran, who was born with severe limitations. He never spoke and never called me ‘dad.’ Yet, he was the greatest teacher of my life,” said Almog. “Eran is the one who taught me to have compassion for the weakest members of our society. It is for them that I work and will continue to act throughout my life.”
“This award also reflects the fact that the State of Israel has in some way grown up. Previously, no one talked about children with special needs. Finally, they are being brought out of the shadows and into the light. Still, there is much work to be done.”
The Israel Prize committee echoed Almog’s comments, noting that the Major General led a revolution in caring for Israel’s special needs population that brought about a crucial change in societal perception of individuals with disabilities.
“Doron is a courageous leader who has always lived by the motto ‘leave no man behind.’ It is so fitting that he receive this lifetime achievement award because he has, indeed, spent his whole life fighting with strength and nobility to secure and improve the lives of all of Israel’s citizens, giving special attention to those who could not speak for themselves,” said Rabbi Yehuda Marmorstein, Director-General of the ALEH centers.
“It is truly inspiring to watch Doron work day after day, and it is our greatest honor to call him a member of the ALEH family. He will always be our Major General, and we will fall in line beside him to fight for a state and society that is more accommodating and tolerant to the needs of individuals with disabilities.”
ALEH was founded in 1982 by a group of Israeli parents who were determined to give their severely disabled children the best available care and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potentials. Three decades later, ALEH has become Israel’s largest network of residential care facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.
ALEH’s four residential facilities, located in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Gedera and the Negev, provide over 700 children and young adults with all the specialized services they need to live a quality life: residential living, medical care, rehabilitative and therapeutic treatment, special education, vocational training opportunities and social and cultural activities. In addition, ALEH provides thousands of outpatient sessions to children with milder disabilities who are able to live at home.