Kalman Samuels
Kalman Samuels Shalva

Kalman Samuels left behind university scholarships in Canada to explore his Jewish roots in Israel and wound-up making Aliyah and trudging through inconceivable personal challenges to became one of Israel’s most celebrated visionaries.

“Who would have dreamed thirty-two years ago, when my wife and I founded Shalva; that I would light a torch on Israel’s Independence Day? Clearly dreams never dreamed continue to unfold,” says Samuels; alluding to his published memoir which tells the incredible story of raising his son Yossi and creating Shalva an organization of people with disabilities which has become a beacon of hope for the State of Israel and the world at large.

In a phone call received this afternoon, Kalman Samuels was congratulated by Hili Tropper, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport for being chosen to light a torch in Israel’s 74th Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony.

Samuels is the President of Shalva-The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities; an organization which he founded with his wife Malki is 1990; motivated by their personal experience raising their son Yossi, who was rendered blind, deaf, and physically disabled after receiving a faulty DPT vaccine in his infancy.

Jolted by this devastating tragedy which changed their lives forever, the young Samuels family decided to pivot in a positive direction and transform their life’s challenges into a resource of opportunities for others.

With unwavering devotion, Kalman changed his life’s course to fulfill his wife’s personal promise to help others; which resulted in the flourishing Shalva organization that provides rehabilitative care to children and adults with disabilities and their families throughout the lifecycle and has created groundbreaking opportunities for workplace and social inclusion.

Little did Kalman Samuels know that thirty years after its founding, his life’s work- the Shalva organization would become a national center serving thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families, having transformed the landscape of Israeli social services; as a trailblazing leader in advancing the care and inclusion of people with disabilities globally.

“The amazing center of Kalman and his wife, Malki has become a magnet for people from across Israel and around the world, and it positions the State of Israel and Jerusalem as a flagship center of inclusion, care and human dignity,” said representatives of Israel’s Ministry of Culture.

“The hundreds of volunteers of the organization represent a young generation dedicated to the values of kindness and giving. With bright, welcoming faces and boundless devotion, Kalman and Malki are a source of hope for many families in Israel, and promote a society that accepts all people as they are.”

“There are no words to describe my excitement and gratitude,” says Samuels.

“It is an incredible honor for me to represent thousands of families of individuals with disabilities, and the children and adults with disabilities themselves; in my perspective they are first and foremost people with abilities. I am humbled to light a torch in gratitude to the thousands of volunteers, professional staff, and partners over the course of many years who have enabled Shalva’s incredible work to flourish. I am moved for all of the children and adults with disabilities and their families in Israel who are being embraced by Israel with a tremendous step forward toward their worthy inclusion in society.”

Ever since 1949, and officially instituted in 1950, Israel marks the closing of Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, and transitions to the opening of Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, with an official torch-lighting ceremony.

The annual ceremony is held on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, at the burial site of Theodor Hertzl and is attended by over 5,000 government ministers, members of the Knesset, IDF veterans and diplomatic dignitaries.

The ceremony highlight is the lightening of twelve torches, symbolizing the biblical twelve tribes, which are lit by select citizens who have made remarkable contributions to Israeli society. Dignified and festive at once, the ceremony is accompanied by music, dance performances and fireworks; and is broadcast on Israel’s main television and radio channels viewed by millions of Israelis across the country. The torch lighting ceremony is directed by the Israeli Government’s Ministry of Culture and Sport and this year’s theme is “An outstretched hand in brotherly and sisterly love.”