Thank you, Israel. I’m a Christian man from Birmingham, Alabama in the heart of the American Bible belt, who wants to say thank you to Israel. Here’s why.
A Jewish friend of mine, Samantha Dubrinsky who also serves as one of my writing coaches, sent me the link to an article that appeared recently on the Times Of Israel website. It was about the opening of a new state of the art facility in Israel for people with special needs. She emailed it to me because of my passion for this subject as the father of a 20-year-old son with special needs.
The headline captured my attention: “‘World’s largest’ facility for people with disabilities opens in Jerusalem.” The story went on to explain, “One of Israel’s largest disability groups inaugurated a new $54 million headquarters, called The Shalva National Center, on Thursday in Jerusalem meant to serve as a community and sports center for the disabled.”
The story touched a deep chord within me because ever since my son was diagnosed with special needs at age 18 months, my wife and I have had to fight for him. We have met with countless doctors, specialists, visited numerous facilities and know first-hand the journey and obstacles that special needs families face. This is why this story touched me so deeply.
Most people in Alabama are not aware of the Times Of Israel website, but because of my relationship with Samantha and my other writing coach Richard Friedman, who also is Jewish, I’ve learned a great deal about Israel and the Jewish faith. I know that Jews are taught that “all Jews are responsible for another one” and to value human life above all else. I also have learned that Israel is a country driven by collective compassion and a unique and embracing ethic.
Many emails get deleted, but not this one. For me, this story about this new facility was a sign of hope and an inspiring model of how a society should treat its special needs citizens. Emotionally, as a parent of a special needs son, this article was a comforting confirmation. It reflected what could be done when there is a will to help people with special needs.
I wouldn’t expect anything less from Israel because it is a remarkable and determined country that always has fought for the underdog. The Jewish people built a country from virtually nothing after years of dispersion and persecution and Israelis have a fierce determination that inspires me.
As I read about this new facility, I found myself wanting more things like this to happen in Alabama, even though already there are some exceptional efforts in place. I know first-hand the enormous impact such a facility would have and the countless lives it could enrich. And then I began passing the Times Of Israel story on to friends, hoping they would pass it on and realize what an impact Israel is making on its special needs community.
I also know that if enough people get involved, and excited about a project, then, as this new Israeli facility demonstrates, amazing things can happen.
The article made me feel good. My hope is that it will impact others. It made me so happy to see pictures of Israelis hugging these special needs children who will use the facility, to see these youngsters accepted and celebrated for exactly who they are.
Everywhere is not like Israel. I know that. Israel indeed is as a light unto the nations.
As long as I live, I’ll do anything I can to reflect the values and determination that I see in Israelis. Can I make a change in the special needs area, which is so important to me? I can and I will. Richard reminded me that Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, is remembered for saying, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
I wish I could start everyday by opening emails such as the one I received with this Times of Israel link. The story made an impact — and it made me even more determined to do all that I can do.