Daily Israel Report

Meet the IDF's Very Special Unit: The Special Ed Volunteers

IDF and a school for special needs students in Jerusalem team up to give students a sense of what it feels like to serve in the army.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 6/28/2011, 6:47 AM / Last Update: 6/30/2011, 3:15 AM

A special joint project, involving Jerusalem’s Beit Rachel Strauss school for children with special needs and the IDF’s Central Command, saw children with special needs volunteering for military service.

Simona, the school’s principal, explained that the project goes on throughout the school year and has been ongoing for the past four years. She noted that the students who participate have the abilities and are mature enough to take part in military work.

The tasks that the students are given are mainly administrative ones, ranging from working in the infirmary, helping in the kitchen, to working in the logistics department.

“I think it is our duty as an army, beyond providing military security to also provide strength and national security,” said Colonel Ronen Wolf of Central Command. “I think part of this involves integrating exceptional children into normal society.”

He added that children with special needs “feel uncomfortable that their siblings are enlisting and they’re not, and I think that for them this is a rare opportunity to really feel like a soldier. I think that saluting, wearing a uniform, putting on the beret and listening to instructions and being in a military environment gives them a taste of what it feels like to be a normal child.”

The responses from both the students and the soldiers are very positive. Dafna Vaknin, mother of Gili who volunteered in the kitchen, said: “I think that you can see that he’s very excited and so are we, because the very idea that he’s doing military service, that he is contributing and that he’s accepted here just the way he is with all his limitations, that made us very happy. It made him very happy as well.”

“We as soldiers, even me as a senior commanding officer, when we keep children like these busy it gives us a lot of strength, a lot of proportion about life in general, and as far as we’re concerned this is a wonderful project,” said Col. Wolf.