Israeli teen with CP beats the odds, becomes IDF soldier

Teen with cerebral palsy fulfills dream of serving in the IDF.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Roi Fishman
Roi Fishman
Photo: Yossi Cahana

Roi Fishman was born two months prematurely, and because oxygen was cut off from his brain at birth, he developed cerebral palsy, a condition that left him physically disabled.

“Our life changed dramatically. All day long [we were] running between doctors and therapists: to find the necessary equipment and services, to do therapy with him at home, to address his behavioral issues, and to spend extra time on his school work,” said Tami Fishman, Roi’s mother.

As a result of his severe disability, he is bound to a wheelchair and unable to move his hands. He needs help with most day-to-day functions.

“My parents really taught me that I’m capable, and I grew up with that feeling,” said Roi.

At his parents’ insistence, and driven by a deep desire to integrate into Israeli society, Roy attended high school with non-disabled students and graduated with honors. During his senior year in high school, when IDF officials visited and lectured about the army, all he could think about was serving. His dream was to be a soldier in the IDF, just like everyone else.

Parents, teachers, and friends gently attempted to dissuade him so he wouldn't get let down. His parents even accompanied him to army registration where they received the doctor's verdict that she was exempt from army service, but Roi wasn't deterred. "I want to serve in army. I want to wear a uniform!" and he did! Last week Roi joined Special in Uniform as a volunteer and entered the IDF with complete confidence and the motivation to succeed.

In Israel, the vast majority of typical high school graduates serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) but thousands of young people suffering from conditions like Roi's, such as cerebral palsy, autism, and intellectual disabilities, are turned away from service.

These individuals had been turned away from proudly serving their country until the organization 'Special in Uniform' opened the door for them. Now operating in partnership with Jewish National Fund (JNF), Special in Uniform is a very unique program which integrates young people with autism and other disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and, in turn, into Israeli society. The organization’s core belief is that everyone belongs and has the right to reach his or her full potential. Special in Uniform focuses on the unique talents of each individual participant to help them find a job within the IDF that is a perfect fit for their skills and helps keep Israel safe and secure.

“Participants in Special in Uniform attend a three-month course and receive training for their army service and an introduction to army life,” said Tiran Attia, director of the program and a former commander of IDF’s Sar-El program for overseas army volunteers for 10 years. In that capacity, she witnessed firsthand the dedication and high work ethic of volunteers with disabilities.


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