The Eran Almog Fund
February 7, 2008
The Eran Almog Fund
First Memorial Ceremony in honor of his yahrzeit
By Doron Almog, father of Eran o.b.m.
For twenty-three years, our beloved son Eran taught us by his very presence the true essence of love, unconditional giving, commitment, and the measure of our social strength. Eran was the greatest teacher of my life. The lesson he taught me during his short life – without ever speaking a word, without ever calling me Abba – I could never have learned from any other person in this world. In this lesson we learned how to deal with the tormenting shattering of all normal expectations. We learned to never be ashamed of our son, even when already at a very young age we realized he would most probably never speak, never be called to the Torah at his bar mitzvah, never marry and never have children. This child would not continue our family chain. He would never behave according to the expected standards or rules of the game. He would never excel in any of the areas in which parents hope their children will shine. He would never be a source of pride for us based on his personal achievements.
During this first lesson – Eran’s life – Eran set up for us a huge mirror to view ourselves. Each day he asked us a burning question – not the typical query of what grade we would give him for his achievements, but rather what grade could we give ourselves as a society that cares for the weakest amongst us. His silent cry echoed daily: Do you even see the most vulnerable and needy, or are you too involved in the never-ending race for greater personal achievement that serves to feed your own ego?
That first lesson was painful, even tormenting. It was like climbing uphill in an endlessly repetitive struggle, without understanding why things happen the way they do, and whether there was any justice in the world.
Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus opens with an assertion that there is only one question of philosophy that matters: Does the realization of the meaninglessness and absurdity of life require suicide? In other words, what is the point of life filled with tragedy?
Our children serve to ensure our immortality and carry on our name – they are truly our whole existence, our raison d’etre. Understanding that your child will never carry on your name shatters the spirit and brings with it a profound sorrow. Every day of caring for this child is yet another day in that repetitive and endless struggle up the mountain.
But Camus concludes his philosophical essay by declaring that “the struggle itself is enough to fill man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Yes, the first lesson that our son Eran taught us was painful; it felt like a punishment. But at the same time, he taught us how to really see what truth is. He taught us the profound meaning of the maxim: Love your friend as yourself. We learned that the chain of humanity is measured by its weakest link – that we are judged by how we act towards the most vulnerable in our midst. The more we consider their needs and feelings, the more worthy we become of the title human being.
We tried to bring joy to Eran – to get him to smile and enjoy life – and every time he smiled we were happy. Eran taught us not to be ashamed of him and people like him. He taught us to be proud of our struggle on his behalf. In his own way, Eran showed us the real path of life. He was our compass, guiding us in navigating the way to establish ALEH Negev.
In our naivety, we thought his legacy was simply to establish the village and thereby create a future of hope for special children like him. The village would serve as a means of addressing the continuing injustice practiced toward that one small segment of the population. But in essence, Eran prepared us for an even greater and more difficult lesson than the first – a lesson in which we would be required to fulfill his legacy without him at our side. This second lesson – Eran’s passing – demands much more energy, effort and sacrifice than it took to establish a life-village for 250 disabled young adults.
The memorial ceremony we are holding today, here at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, is a means to carry out this message of making a difference on a profound level. This ceremony acknowledges and honors excellence in achievement and creativity in giving to a child with special needs. As we raise the banner of excellence in an annual ceremony to honor the memory of our beloved son Eran, it serves as an impetus for deepening public awareness and enhancing the quality of life for disabled children in Israel and worldwide. That is how we wish to mark Eran’s yahrzeit every year, here in this village that bears his name.
Making real change begins with personal example. It is an educational process, as in the sense of, “From me they will see and so they will do.” Therefore, this annual ceremony must first of all pay tribute to the excellence achieved here in our own home, within the ALEH facilities.
Today we wish to honor the work of our ALEH staff, those who in essence act as parents to our children day after day, night after night, on Shabbat and holidays – every single day of the year. They hug and kiss, wash and bathe, feed, dress, educate and supervise – and in every one of their actions the great love they have for our children shines through. The most basic level of giving begins with the physical, with the touch of hands, and today we acknowledge 7 workers who exemplify this behavior, here in the village that Eran loved so much.
In upcoming years we will honor other types of giving, such as the development of special technologies, assistive devices, noteworthy innovative therapeutic techniques and treatment, or valuable research. The value of each contribution will be measured against existing standards to determine what is worthy of commendation.
The Eran Almog Fund will also recognize outstanding instances of giving to the special needs population in frameworks outside of ALEH. This includes excellence and achievement in other non-profit organizations and voluntary sectors in Israel. We will award excellence demonstrated in the public sector as well, including innovative legislation or effective action undertaken by government ministries or local authorities. Significant action taken by the business sector will also be honored. Indeed, over the past few years the business sector in Israel has seen a dramatic increase in the level of dedicated caring for the community, but much remains to be done. In addition, we will honor efforts to communicate and deepen public awareness about the needs of the cognitively disabled, and we will award outstanding studies by research institutions and universities. We will also honor extraordinary individual contributions towards special needs.
The Memorial Ceremonies for Eran Almog, O.B.M. honor those who give and act on behalf of the most vulnerable in society, with the goal of creating an exemplary society that will serve as a light unto the nations. ALEH Negev- Nahalat Eran plays an important role in this process. Our son Eran taught us to be more sensitive and attentive to the needs of the weakest amongst us, and we hope that ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran will have a similar influence on thousands of people in Israel and throughout the world.
ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran is an oasis of hope and potential for Israel’s disabled, setting a new standard in the field of special education. Ultimately, we hope that ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran will serve as a focal point, enabling the message and legacy of Eran Almog, o.b.m. to be heard throughout the world.
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