For Omer Lahat, an IDF soldier who dutifully serves his country despite being physically disabled since birth, this year the Hanukkah candles will burn brighter than ever.

Omer was born two months prematurely, and developed Cerebral Palsy due to the oxygen being cut off from his brain at birth. The condition left him physically disabled. Despite his physical limitations, Omer’s exceptional intellect and determination are apparent.

"My parents didn’t give up on me along the way,” Omer said. “They really taught me that I’m capable, and I grew up with that feeling.” Omer graduated from high school with honors.

Omer’s dream was to serve in the Army “The truth is that it’s something that’s been with me since childhood.” said Omer “My father is a former Israel Air Force pilot and a squadron commander, to serve in the Army is something that was very important in our family.” At first, we did not know how to make this dream come true for him, since, like every young man with a disability, Omer was exempted from military service.

"And then we heard about Special in Uniform." Omer's father said

Special in Uniform is a unique program, now operating in partnership with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). It integrates young people with autism and other disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and, later on, into Israeli society. We met with the director of the program, who received Omer with open arms. Omer was the first soldier on a wheelchair in the program. Thanks to him, the door was opened for many other young people with similar physical disabilities.

Omer integrated well into the Palmachim Air Base. He fulfilled his dream to serve “like Dad”. But, his ambitions did not end there. He wanted to enlist as regular soldier, after having been a volunteer up to then. The IDF is careful about enlistment for young disabled people because of fears of a worsening of the soldier's medical condition, which can, in addition, lead to insurance liability.

Special in Uniform already had managed to see to the enlistment of 50 soldiers, out of the hundreds of volunteers. These soldiers officially went through the complete procedure of the IDF conscription. Omer was determined to become one of them.

Omer dreamed of enlisting as a regular soldier. He met with Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan as part of the “One-on-One with Special in Uniform” program and asked Ben-Dahan to help him to enlist as a full IDF soldier. Dahan promised to help Omer, and after a long and determined struggle, Omer finally fulfilled his dream and officially joined the Israeli army.