Special in Uniform, a joint project of the IDF, Lend-a-Hand to a Special Child, and JNF-USA, is the only military inclusion program in the world. It integrates youth with physical disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces, imbuing them with pride in themselves and their abilities and enabling them to function independently and contribute positively to society.”
This past Thursday, the red carpet was rolled out at the Mesubim Gate in the Bakum reception and recruitment base. With trumpets blaring merrily in the background, nine beaming young soldiers proudly displayed their brand-new soldier’s ID which took them up to a year to attain.
Last year, Gal Buskila, Daniel Tabarsar, Menachem Biton, Baruch Krichli, Tal Tayer, Ron Segal, Osher Glusoker, Dekel Etrog and one other soldier who wishes to remain anonymous joined Special in Uniform. This pioneering military inclusion program absorbs youths with mild physical and mental disabilities, offers them extensive skills training and incorporates them into appropriate positions in the IDF, with a focus on the astonishing range of these youth’s abilities, as opposed to their disabilities. Since its inception, the program has grown in size from 50 to 500 participants, with a long waiting list; and its passionate leaders have an ambitious vision of quickly ramping up enrollment to 1,000 participants over the next four years.
The fresh soldiers proudly displayed their very own soldier’s IDs to the crowds, glowing in happiness and pride at accomplishing what they’ve worked for so long to attain. In the framework of Special in Uniform, members volunteer for up to one year in the army, train and learn important skills before graduating to become full-fledged soldiers and serving for another two years.
Special in Uniform is internationally acclaimed for its unique, experiential and effective programs in which participants undergo evaluation and assessment by a professional team, followed by a three-month course teaching life and occupational skills. One of the major goals of the project is to imbue young people with disabilities with pride in themselves and their abilities, to function independently, and contribute positively to society.
The brand-new soldiers stood with shining eyes on a raised platform built especially for them and bearing congratulations signs. Chairman of Lend a Hand to a Special Child Lt. Col. (Res.) Gabi Ophir distributed the caps and dogtags, which was followed by a party for the soldiers and their families and a festive dinner and toast in the adjacent Don Vito restaurant.
Rami and Merav Travasar, parents of Daniel, were overcome with emotion and gratitude to the IDF, JNF-USA, and Lend-A-Hand to A Special Child which together make this remarkable program possible.
“We’re so proud of him, and he’s so proud of himself,” said the glowing dad. “We’re so grateful to the people who founded this amazing project, the people who help Daniel and his friends realize their dream of serving their country and contributing what they can with their strengths and talents….For giving them opportunities to feel like equals, which is so important… For helping all soldiers in the IDF understand that when they return to civil life, they should respect and appreciate people with differences not as different, but as wonderful, talented people who can contribute and accomplish. I hope that many other kids like Daniel work to achieve their dream, and that they never give up.”
Yossi Kahana of JNF-USA, which co-sponsors Special in Uniform, said, “It’s so appropriate that this ceremony comes at the start of a new year, which is always a time for new beginnings, and also right after Chanukah, a time of miracles, joy, gratitude and light. Special in Uniform is a phenomenal initiative, unrivaled anywhere else in the world, and it highlights the exceptional unity and compassion of our nation—proving once again that Jews and Israel are a light unto the nations. For all us here today, this is a very special and joyous occasion. The fact that these kids are standing here today, full-fledged soldiers in the IDF, is nothing short of a Chanukah miracle, and they, their parents, and all of us are so grateful for it!”