Israel HaYom / The Jewish Voice / The Jewish Link / Five Towns Jewish Times
On Thursday, July 28, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited the Negev-based rehabilitative village of ALEH (www.ALEH.org), Israel’s foremost network of state-of-the-art facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, to pay tribute to Major General (res.) Doron Almog, recipient of the 2016 Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and contributions to society and the state.
Major General Almog, the Chairman of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, and his wife, Didi, led the Prime Minister and his wife on a tour of the rehabilitative village, including stops at the integrated kindergarten for children with severe disabilities and their regularly-abled peers, the outpatient physical therapy clinic, and the intensive care ward. The Prime Minister also met with several national service volunteers and active IDF soldiers who give of their free time to volunteer at ALEH.
“Here at ALEH, we saw ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ the central tenet of Judaism and the guiding principal of humanity, put into action. Here there is an understanding that everyone has a soul, and men, women and children of all abilities – whether they be Jews, Christians, Arabs or Bedouins – are treated equally, with deep and unending love,” commented the Prime Minister following the tour.
“Through its work with our most severely disabled citizens, by giving deep respect and loving care to each and every one of them without exception, ALEH exemplifies the very essence of both Judaism and humanity.”
Sara Netanyahu, a licensed child psychologist, added that ALEH’s educational model is ideal for individual and societal growth. “When children of all abilities and backgrounds are brought together in this way, cared for by individuals who value nationalism and volunteerism, and are taught to focus on their similarities and capabilities, rather than their differences and disabilities, they will grow up to be kinder, gentler and more complete adults, and our society will reap the benefits.”
Since 2005, the Negev-based rehabilitative village, one of four ALEH facilities across Israel, has provided a continuum of residential care for more than 200 children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities as they grow from adolescents into young adults. In addition to providing services and outpatient care to thousands of individuals from Israel’s southern region, including rehabilitative treatments and therapies, dental care, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and communication and speech therapy, ALEH Negev also invest heavily in the region, currently employing close to 300 local residents.
“ALEH Negev is a vital component to southern Israel’s growth, and today’s visit by the Prime Minister shows the importance of this facility, as well as the impact of JNF-USA donors, who allow the ALEH staff to provide the best treatment and care available,” said Eric Michaelson, Chief Israel Officer for Jewish National Fund in Israel (JNF-USA). “We are proud to support and partner with Major General Almog and the many dedicated professionals and passionate volunteers who work at ALEH Negev to ensure that no Israeli is ever left behind.”
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 and dedicated his life to helping individuals with special needs live to their fullest potentials.
“I am so grateful to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, for visiting ALEH, as this visit is a powerful message indicating the Israeli government’s commitment to both developing the Negev and providing the best possible support and care for the weakest members of our society,” said Major General Almog. “With the government and the JNF as our partners, we will continue to lead a revolution in caring for Israel’s special needs population, making the desert bloom with compassion.