My work with Special in Uniform thought me that for a person with disability milestones don’t look like others, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing. Sometimes I want to call them ten-milestones, because they arrive so infrequently. But because of that, every inch forward is a celebration.
I had one of those “holidays” moments yesterday; it was Loten Aroch’s holiday. But it was not only her own holiday it’s the holiday of her family, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israeli society as a whole, and the Jewish people everywhere.
Loten was born with cerebral palsy. During her senior year in high school, when IDF officials visited and lectured about the army, all she could think about was serving. Her dream was to be a soldier in the IDF, just like everyone else. Parents, teachers, and friends gently attempted to dissuade her so she wouldn’t get let down. Her parents even accompanied her to army registration where they received the doctor’s verdict that she was exempt from army service, but Loten wasn’t deterred. “I want to serve in army. I want to wear a uniform!” and she did! She joined Special in Uniform as a volunteer and entered the IDF with complete confidence and the motivation to succeed. After one year of volunteering Loten was accepted as a fully enlisted soldier and received her choger, the army identification card.
“It was a major victory and such a moving experience to see her accomplish this. I’m so proud of her,” says her mother.
Yesterday, Loten reached another milestone! She was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Her family and her friends in the base were invited to join the ceremony. A moment before the ceremony begin, a bus entered the base with 50 JNF Women for Israel (WFI) members from the Queen of Sheba Mission to Israel. They came to celebrate this special occasion with Loten.
As part of its focus on improving quality of life in Israel, JNF is dedicated to ensuring that no member of Israeli society is left behind. Partnering with Special in Uniform fulfills JNF’s vision of building a society that looks beyond the surface and disability to the person within, reflecting values that are inherent to Jewish Life and Tikkun Olam, repairing the world and making it a better place.
At the ceremony, Lynne Miraim (Tampa, FL) told me: “I’m proud to be part of JNF Task Force on Disabilities and to meet this wonderful people like Loten, a young lady that so wanted to serve in army and to wear a uniform.”
“Special in Uniform is a very unique program that enables young people with autism and other disabilities to join the Israel Defense Forces and, in turn, Israeli society,” said National JNF WFI President, and member of JNF’s Task Force on Disabilities, Nina Paul (Cincinnati,OH). “We are very proud to be here today to support them and Loten.”
Our Jewish values teach us that each of us is created in God’s image and each of us is to be valued, yesterday, we salute Loten and her friends as we acknowledge and celebrate inclusion persons with disabilities.”