How is it possible that I hadn’t heard of Doron Almog until Wednesday night?
I had heard of the Munich massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in 1972. I knew that the Israelis retaliated for that unforgivable event. I knew brave soldiers were involved in that necessary mission.
I knew about the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Egypt and Syria launched an attack on the Jewish state on the holiest day of the year. I knew that Israel was victorious, but too many lives were lost, and that we wouldn’t have our state if it weren’t for the highly trained, brave and heroic men and women who fought for Israel.
I knew about Entebbe in 1976, and the hijack of the Air France plane en route to Tel Aviv that was hijacked in Athens. I knew about the soldiers who risked their lives, even before the mission was approved by the Israeli cabinet. I knew brave soldiers landed on the runway at the Ugandan airport, and captured the airfield’s control tower in a spectacular rescue operation, rescuing over 100 Israeli hostages. I knew Yoni Netanyahu was the only soldier killed in that operation.
I knew about the journey of Ethiopian Jews through the Sudanese desert to be brought to the land of Israel in the late 1980s. I knew that mission was risky and dangerous and required Israel to send their best soldiers to accomplish a miraculous rescue.
But I didn’t know about Doron Almog. I didn’t know that all of those historic events involved Doron Almog as a courageous and important part of each mission.
On Wednesday night, my husband and I attended the screening of the film “7 days at Entebbe”, presented by the Jewish National Fund in Toronto. The movie was “meh”, to be honest. I thought the characters were one-dimensional; I could barely tolerate the on-screen interactions between the Israeli politicians and soldiers in English (in my opinion, they should have spoken in Hebrew with subtitles). I didn’t like the emphasis on the sad stories of the hostage takers, or the lack of focus on the incredible events of that actual rescue.
But then, I was in for a surprise.
Following the movie, Major General (Res.) Doron Almog spoke. As I said, I had never heard of him.
It turns out, he is worth having heard of.
As he spoke for over 30 minutes, with no technology and no prepared speech, the hair on my arms and neck literally stood on end. I had chills. Not for one moment did my mind wander or my thoughts drift from his story and his message. He spoke about his unbelievable involvement in every one of those well-known events in the history of our state. But that wasn’t heroic enough for Doron Almog.
This war hero, brave Israeli soldier, son, father, and husband shared that his passion has, for the past 25 years, come from the greatest teacher he has ever had – his son Eran, who was born with multiple exceptionalities. Almog established ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, Israel’s largest residential facility for the severely disabled, to support dignified, caring and cutting-edge physical and emotional support for those Israelis that, prior to Almog, were often cast aside, housed in institutions, or simply not spoken about. He would not allow his son to be cast aside. In the process, he has changed the way the physically and mentally disabled are cared for in Israel.
He is a true hero – not just because of what he accomplished as an Israeli soldier (which might be enough), and not just because he saved lives, and not just because he was so extraordinarily brave. When he speaks about bravery, he casts a wide net, and includes the bravery of the incredible soldiers of the Israeli army, past and present. He also includes the bravery of those that live with disabilities, and the family and caregivers who love them.
At the end of the evening, I phoned my 19 year old son (who was educated in the Jewish Day School system in Toronto) to ask him if he had heard of Doron Almog. He hadn’t. He immediately “searched him up” and found one of his Ted Talks. He watched it that evening, and was amazed by the life of this incredible person.
Doron Almog is a hero because of his honesty, character, strength, actions and integrity. Almog needs to be known, by me and by others. No more Kardashians who are famous and known for doing nothing. No more royals, who are famous and known for being born into a wealthy lineage. At this time, we need real role models, heroes to look up to and learn from. It’s time for us to know and learn from the true story of Doron Almog.