In Parshat Kedoshim (Vaykra 19:14) we read: “You shall not curse a deaf person and before a blind person you shall not place a stumbling block; you shall fear your God, I am God.”
It is clear this pasuk that people with special needs should not be taken advantage of or mistreated. We can learn from here that all people should be treated properly and respected whether or not they have special needs.
It has taken society in general and society in Israel in particular a long time to reach the point where we can say that those with special needs are truly being treated as equal members of society and not looked down upon.
This past Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day), recognition has been given to citizens of Israel who have done exemplary work for the State of Israel, some of whom have special needs.
Toby Klein Greenwald points out that Rami Levy, founder of the third largest supermarket chain in Israel who was invited to light one of the torches on Erev Yom Haatzmaut at Har Herzl acknowledged in his speech how thankful he is to have been able to come this far in the business world despite having dyslexia.
Pvt. Dan Korkowsky lit the torch on behalf of the IDF’s special needs soldiers. Pvt. Korkowsky was diagnosed as being on the spectrum for autism and he is part of the IDF’s special intelligence unit 9900.
On Yom HaAtzmaut, the Israel Prize for Literature was awarded to Erez Biton who has been blind since his childhood yet being blind did not stop him from writing five books of poetry.
Chaim Topol, most famous for his role as Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Israel Prize Ceremony for his work with children with special needs. Topol is a founder of “Variety” and chairman of the Jordan River Village for children with life threatening illnesses.
It is about time that Israel recognizes the achievements of people with special needs and those who work on behalf of those with special needs in the workplace, in our cultural institutions and in the army.
It is not enough to “not curse a deaf person” and “not put a stumbling block before a blind person”, we must give honor to those who deserve it no matter what physical or emotional challenges they may face.