Deserving the Title 'Human Being'

Deserving the Title 'Human Being'

Maj. Gen. Doron Almog
Chairman, ALEH Negev

My son Eran was named after my beloved brother, who lost his life fighting for the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

When Eran was born, we, like all parents, had many expectations: he would be clever, intelligent, courageous, handsome and successful – he would fulfill our dreams in ways we never could. We only realized the truth slowly; it was agonizing and infinitely painful.

When Eran was 8 months old, he seemed not to hear and he made no eye contact, as if lacking interest in the world around him. Then came the medical tests. Finally, we understood that our child would not be like all other children; he would never be able to relate to a normal environment.

Our expectations started to diminish. We hoped he would learn to eat by himself, to go to the toilet alone, to dress without help. We wanted to ensure that no one would ever hurt or abuse him, and that he should be comfortable.  And we wanted his world to somehow be meaningful.

My brother Eran was rescued only after seven days, during which he was left to bleed to death on the battlefield. As an officer in a country that fights to survive, I swore I would do everything possible never to leave a bleeding soldier behind. I slowly began to realize that my son Eran was in a similar position. And we all swore that we would never abandon him.

My wife and I had to fight for Eran’s basic rights: a suitable educational framework, transportation to school with someone to accompany him, air-conditioned classrooms. We were his mouthpiece – it was up to us to explain his needs and to fight for him.

And in so doing, Eran changed us completely. He taught us the most powerful lesson of our lives. His silent cry urged me to change the world’s standards. To raise the banner of sensitivity and love on behalf of the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society, on behalf of children like him whose voices will never be heard. Like most people, I was used to measuring things according to the ruler of achievement. Slowly I learned how much more difficult, and infinitely greater, is the measure of human sensitivity.

We brought up Eran at home until the age of 13. The decision to part from him was hard, but we knew that he needed a specialized environment to continue his development.

We chose to send Eran to ALEH’s Moriah Center in Gedera. There he benefited from meticulous care, a devoted team of caregivers and a suitable social setting. We saw his happiness and we rejoiced with him.

As he grew older and became a young man, his needs changed as well. We needed to think of a long-term solution for him. We searched and investigated, and then we began to dream. We envisioned a place where Eran and his friends could live a life of quality and dignity, just as we all wish for our children. A place with lots of greenery and fresh air, with a framework of challenging occupational opportunities, excellent medical and rehabilitative care and social activities. A place that would offer a future filled with hope.

And the dream of ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran was born.

Eran was the first resident of ALEH Negev when the village opened its doors in December 2005. How he loved it there! We saw him blossom in front of our eyes, and we joyfully anticipated future happy years.

To our sorrow, less than a year later Eran contracted Castelman’s disease. I was abroad, telling Eran’s story once again, when I received the news that tore my heart in two. My beloved Eran was gone. His brave fight had ended at the age of 23, just when he had the whole world ahead of him.

I am now faced with the most difficult challenge of all. How easy it would be to file this painful chapter away, to nurse my pain privately and to try to forget. But living with Eran has changed me forever. His legacy cries out to me daily: Abba, don’t abandon us now. Despite the pain, be twice as strong. Continue your mission because now it is not only on my behalf; now it is truly for everyone else, and that is what I always wanted. That we never ever leave anyone bleeding behind.

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