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Mar 5, 2014 By Abby Leviss Category: Special Needs,
A legend and his son's legacy
Doron and Didi Almog are amazing people whom I've known for nearly seven years now. Their son Eran, who was born with severe developmental disabilities, died suddenly seven years ago at the age of 23. It's hard for me to imagine that they were so early in their grief when I met them. They were and are amazing people.
General Almog was the first person on the ground in Entebbe in 1976 -- part of a clandestine mission to rescue 108 hostages whose plane had been hijacked and who were being help captive in Uganda. He was the commander of that mission and is a celebrated hero in Israel. He felt led by his deeply rooted commitment to never leaving a wounded soldier in the field. Several years earlier, during the Yom Kippur war, Doron's brother was left bleeding on the battlefield for days. He was returned to his family already dead. The hostages were to him the wounded soldiers. He would not leave then behind.
But what do the parents of a severely developmentally disabled child have to brag about? Eran could not feed himself, or go to the bathroom by himself, or even say one word -- "not even aba (father)". But the love a parent feels for their child is unconditional. Those things should not matter. "These children are the most innocent in society -- full of love. They cannot be left behind." Doron set about building a village that would accommodate special-needs young people and adults -- not a sterile institution but a community with green grass, shaded areas to relax, a multitude of special therapies (pet therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy). The place is called Aleh Negev -- a place that they believed Eran would live out the many years of his life. But that dream would never be realized. Eran died suddenly and unexpectedly as a young man. People talk about Doron's son who was developmentally disabled a lot at JNF, but they nearly never speak about the fact that he's been left grieving -- a bereaved parent to a special-needs child.
"To rescue 108 people who were he captive for several days -- what is that?" he said. "My life's work is to help those who are prisoners in their own bodies every day of the lives."