Young men and women with special needs who participate in the IDF’s groundbreaking Special in Uniform program meet with President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin: “The IDF benefited.”

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL, December 25, 2018 /24-7PressRelease/ — Israel’s President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin hosted a delegation of young men and women with special needs who volunteer in the IDF’s Special-in-Uniform program in his Jerusalem residence.

Special in Uniform is a unique program established by Lend-A-Hand to A Special Child in cooperation with JNF-USA whose goal it is to recruit youth with disabilities to the IDF and enable them to reach their full potential and contribute positively to society as volunteers and soldiers in Israel’s Defense Forces. Since 2014, the program has successfully integrated over 650 adolescents with special needs into 35 military bases around the country.

Program members contribute in meaningful ways to the IDF by carrying out a wide variety of activities that correspond to their unique abilities. Throughout the period of their military training and service, the youths are supported by a professional faculty from Lend-A-Hand to a Special Child.

Chairman of Special in Uniform Major General (Res.) Gabi Ophir and representatives of Lend-A-Hand to A Special Child escorted the volunteers and their coaches to today’s event in the President’s Residence.

Treating his guests to a warm welcome, President Rivlin expressed: “The IDF is a people’s army; it comes from the nation and returns to the nation. Our nation is diverse, and the IDF must reflect this diversity. I commend the IDF for proving that it knows how to provide for everyone, to recruit anyone who is able to contribute. It is both a privilege and obligation to do everything in our power to share in the burden in all realms of life, as well as in the army.”

The President added, “You aren’t the only ones who benefited from your conscription into the IDF. Your commanders benefited. Israel’s Defense Forces benefited. Israeli society as a whole benefited from this. Lend A Hand to A Special Child Association proves that it is indeed possible to overcome disability, but in order to do so, one must first offer a helping hand first. I want to convey a special thank you to your families—to your parents and other family members, and to your commanders who support and value you.”

He likewise added his personal thanks to each and every soldier. “I invited you here not so you could say thank you to the President, but in order to tell each and every one of you, ‘thank you’. Thank you for getting up and wearing your uniforms each and every day. Thank you for putting on your boots… You’re all wonderful kids, whom for years Israeli law and societal norms determined that you are exempt from army service. Yet you came on your own and declared, ‘We want to join the IDF! We want to be part of our nation. We want to be part of our people’s army, because when the nation feels committed to one another, we also feel a sense of responsibility.”

Program Chairman Major General Gabi Ophir shared, “We are very proud of these outstanding youth who represent another 400 of their friends and peers, all of whom are exceptional, all of whom are true heroes. Special in Uniform offers the ideal space and opportunities to youths who graduated from special education schools and suddenly find themselves thrown into the double task of joining the workforce and integrating into society. We’ve proven that joining the IDF is the best recipe for priming these youths for independent living. Our goal is to continually expand the project in the coming years and open the doors to hundreds of other youth with special needs whose dream it is to serve in the army.”

Executive Director of Special in Uniform Lt. Col. (Res.) Tiran Attia added: “I was deeply touched to see the President embrace the members of this project. This is a president who truly loves his people, and his encouragement certainly imbues our soldiers with motivation and gives a special boost to the project.”

Special in Uniform is an innovative program that integrates youth with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and helps prepare them for careers following army service.

The program was founded to give everyone a right to fulfill their potential and be accepted into society, regardless of any disability. Special in Uniform goes beyond the walls of IDF bases, helping its graduates integrate into the workforce and Israeli society in meaningful ways.

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