JERUSALEM — The entrance to the Israel Defense Forces’ Bakum induction center witnessed a unique scene on January 2 when nine beaming young IDF soldiers proudly displayed their new soldier’s ID, which took them a year to attain.
Last year, the group of special needs young adults, including Gal Buskila, Daniel Tabarsar, Menachem Biton, Baruch Krichli, Tal Tayer, Ron Segal, Osher Glusoker, Dekel Etrog and one other soldier who wished 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 their abilities.
Since its inception, the program has grown in size from 50 to 500 participants, with a long waiting list, and its leaders have a vision of growing enrollment to 1,000 participants over the next four years.
The special soldiers displayed their soldier’s IDs to the crowds, glowing in happiness and pride at accomplishing what they’ve worked for so long to attain.
Chairman of Lend a Hand to a Special Child Lt. Col. (Res.) Gabi Ophir distributed the dog tags, which was followed by a party for the soldiers and their families and a festive dinner.
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 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 instill young people with disabilities with pride in themselves and their abilities, to function independently, and contribute positively to society.
Rami and Merav Travasar, Daniel’s parents, said they were “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.”
Yossi Kahana of JNF-USA, which co-sponsors Special in Uniform, said the program 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.”