NEW YORK, NY, May 30, 2016 /24-7PressRelease/ — IDF soldiers met this week with Michael Douglas, American actor and film producer, to present its groundbreaking initiative Special in Uniform, an inspiring program launched by the military in conjunction with the JNF that incorporates young people with disabilities into the IDF with the long-term goal of leading them to integrate long-term into society and the workforce.
Israel has a mandatory draft law encompassing all citizens over the age of eighteen, with the exception of handicapped persons. The fact that most citizens actively enlist in the army while handicapped individuals and those with physical or mental disabilities were unilaterally excluded from service irked one man by the name of Mendi Belinitzky. Belinitzky is founder and executive director of the Lend A Hand to A Special Child Association whose goal, as its name attests, is to boost confidence in youth with special needs and lead them to achieve personal growth, happiness, and to integrate maximally into Israeli society.
“These kids are such a precious, integral aspect of our national identity, and their exclusion from the military hurt. I felt that something had to be done,” relates Belinitzky. With eager cooperation from senior IDF personnel, he helped to launch Special in Uniform, a unique program recruiting young people with special needs to perform volunteer service in the IDF. The focus of the program is on ability, not disability, upon utilizing and emphasizing talents and capacities of people with disabilities in order to foster independence and integration into mainstream society despite physical challenges.
The program is the greatest gift for disabled youngsters, leading them to achieve maximal independence and imbuing them with confidence, satisfaction, pride and sentiments of belonging. It’s likewise a contribution to the IDF as a whole and to each individual soldier, cultivating acceptance of the diversity of people and fostering a stronger, more united society. It’s all about heroism, optimism, perseverance, and belief in the abilities of every special child.
Special in Uniform, which presently incorporates 230 youth with special needs into the IDF, has merited outstanding success and become a model for other militaries and public institutions worldwide. Several days ago, the officers escorting the project and a soldier who is a proud member of Special in Uniform met with American celebrity and actor Michael Douglas in the New York Marriot Marquis near Times Square.
Douglas, who was deeply moved by the meeting, commends the department and IDF. “This is an amazing project that demonstrates the high level of morality of the Israeli army.” At the close of the event, the delegation members were photographed together with Douglas and thanked him for his kind words.