You do not need eyesight to have vision

I have never seen Tamar (Tami) Carmeli without her sunglasses.  In fact, for the last twenty five years, very few have seen her without them

Tami suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) which is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness. It is one of the most common forms of inherited retinal degeneration and has no known cure. Though she can distinguish between light and shade Tami is extremely sensitive to the glare of sunlight  which in some instances verges on the brinks of great discomfort and even pain. Wearing her sunglasses always, helps Tami deal with this predicamentTami

Her visual impairment, however, has not stopped Tami from having vision. Veritably, when the disease first settled in, Tami made every effort to keep her family’s routine unchanged and lead as normal a life as possible “My disease, ” she told me a few days ago when spoke, ” unlike what people would expect, was not a hindrance but rather a blessing. It has taught me so much about myself and opened great and wonderful opportunities for me, opportunities that otherwise I would have never pursued

As a result of her condition, Tami was forced to resign from her career as a librarian at the Technion, in Haifa.  “I was not going to let my disability turn me into a victim,” she said defiantly. In 1984 she learned to play Lawn Bowls, a game mostly played in English speaking countries. She was the first blind woman to partake in these matches in Israel. With the help of her friend Leila Zimmermn and the contributions of Charities supporting the blind, Tami engaged in setting up the first Bowls team composed of blind and visually impaired people in her city of Haifa. It was in 1988. Since then, other similar teams sprang in other parts of the country

A pioneer in the field, Tami achieved national and international acclaim. In 1996, she was approved to partake in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, where she received a bronze medal. She has been the Israeli champion for women’s league seven times. In 2006 and 2012, Tami received the “Sportsperson of the year Award” given to her by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sports

That, though, was not the only opportunity that Tami seized as a result of her disease. In 1992, she earned a diploma in Holistic Massage and reflexology. “Again,” she told me, “the disease proved a blessing. Since I cannot see my patients, I have to use other senses in the therapeutic process. I can feel my patient in a different manner and therefore can produce better results

Finally, I asked Tami to name her most memorable event since the onset of the disease. She did not have to think twice. “It was when I won the Bronze Medal at the Paralympics in Atlanta. To stand on the stage and know that I represent our Home, Israel, was by far one of the most emotional moments in these years

Tami, you are a great source of inspiration to many. We are all so proud of you and join in wishing you every blessing for a fulfilling and rewarding future in whatever you choose to do

About the Author
Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks is an English teacher and a pro Israel advocate. She lives in Israel and has recently published her first novel, "On A Wing From The Holy Land."