Doron Almog and his son, Eran, who passed away in 2007. It's been nine years since Major General Doron Almog's beloved son Eran died at age 23. To mark that occasion, Almog delivered the following words at his son's gravesite in Israel last week. Almog and his wife Didi established Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran in their son's name to provide high-level medical and rehabilitative care to severely disabled adults and children. JNF is an Aleh Negev partner.
When you were born, we called you Eran -- for my brother Eran, who never came back from the war, who lay bleeding for a week near his burning tank before his lifeless body was rescued and brought home.
When you were just 8 months old, our dream -- the dream of parents everywhere -- was shattered. The psychologist at Assaf HaRofeh Hospital diagnosed you as suffering with autism combined with intellectual disability. Apparently you would remain as you were that day, a baby several months of age, for as long as you lived, and you would most probably never learn to speak.
She was right. During all your 23 years, you never spoke one word. You never called me abba. And yet, despite this, you were to become the greatest teacher of my life. Your silent scream pierced through my soul, penetrating every fiber of my being with an endless discourse about the place of children and people just like you in an achievement-oriented society, one that measures a person’s worth by the yardstick of ability and skill.
Long ago, Hillel the Elder enjoined us, "Do not judge your fellow man until you reach his place." Eran, our achievement-oriented society never attempted to judge the world from your place. Rather, society did all it could to hide you and your friends behind a high wall of prejudice and stereotype.
In the past, society's most vulnerable individuals were relegated to virtual isolation within closed institutions. Like prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, they were doubly confined -- at birth within a broken body, and later again under lock and key. Yet you, Eran, tirelessly continued your silent discussion within my mind, within my heart, taking up the cause of justice in our world.
You, who never once caused harm to anyone, never once committed any sin, and all your life on earth were completely righteous -- you had received an unbearable punishment. You were never given the opportunity that is the right of nearly every human being, to lead a fulfilling and independent life. Rather, you lived always completely dependent on the mercy of those around you, a veritable living testimony to the fragility of life. A person devoid of ego, whose very existence begged the question not who am I and what can I do, but rather, what kind of people are you and what are you prepared to do on my behalf?
|Father and son. |
You challenged us daily with your silent shout: I, myself, can do nothing without your help. I cannot wash myself, or dress myself, or eat by myself.Absolutely nothing. Therefore the question must be directed toward you. Are you all callous individuals, blind to the plight of those like me, who justify your worth to both yourselves and to others in terms of your talents, successes, and capabilities? Or are you truly human beings with a heart, possessing the gift of understanding, who know that any hope for giving to me and to others like me is dependent on breaking down the walls of prejudice and leading the world toward tikkun olam? For our own sake. For the sake of the world and for the establishment of a better, more just society -- a model society, indeed.
This ongoing dialogue with you has been the most arduous trial of my life. An agonizing struggle far beyond that of any military battle or training course I ever endured. It has torn me apart into the most basic of components until there was nearly nothing left of me. Yet ultimately, it has built me up again, slowly but irrevocably, year after year. As if I was but Lego blocks in your hand. And throughout this process I would hear your voice telling me, "Abba, you will need tremendous strength for this. You don't have the privilege of giving in to weakness, you must never break or stop. This is not only for my sake; it is for the sake of our entire society."
The village which bears your name today, Eran, is a place we can all be proud of. A utopian society where Jews, Muslims, and Christians live in harmony, bestowing love upon children like you, society’s vulnerable members.I thank you, my beloved son, for the tremendous strength you have given me, the fortitude to be your faithful emissary in this world and to lead the way in your name for this most worthy cause, along the path toward tikkun olam.