IDF welcomes volunteer soldiers with disabilities

IDF (Zahal) volunteer programs continue to grow as Central Command takes in 15 new soldiers with disabilities in a special ceremony

Date: 14/09/2011, 12:41 PM     Author: Florit Shoihet

A Central Command training base welcomed approximately 15 new soldiers with disabilities who volunteered to serve in the IDF (Zahal) during a special ceremony on Tuesday (September 14).

“The Central Command has over 2,000 volunteers serving in a variety of bases,” said Lt. Col. Shavit Sagi, an officer at the command. “The volunteers contribute significantly to our efforts as well as to our soldiers and commanders on a personal level.”

The new volunteers will officially volunteer as soldiers at the base at least once a week. Suffering from different levels of disabilities and mental retardation, each soldier will receive a position suited to his or her capabilities. They will also be joined by reserves soldiers for some of the activities.

“This is a special day for us, as we draft you and we’re just as excited,” said Maj. Avi Kobliv Head of the Central Command’s Volunteers’ Department. “Our strength and security comes from incorporating everyone into the IDF (Zahal).”

Asher Ofri whose daughter, Sigal, enlisted as one of the volunteers said, “Being here makes us all exceptionally proud. The fact that people with disabilities are given the opportunity to serve in the IDF (Zahal) is a huge step forward in fully incorporating them into society.”

Sigal added that “it’s fun to be here. I want to meet more friends from the army and I am very excited.”

Volunteers’ Departments at each Command focus on improving the IDF (Zahal)’s ties with the community. Volunteers were officially incorporated into the IDF (Zahal) for the first time at the Northern Command after the Yom Kippur War.

Other Commands employed the program after its success at the Northern Command, incorporating people with disabilities, injured soldiers, members of bereaved families and more.

At the Central Command, the program was established over 20 years ago and continues to grow. Today, there are volunteers in almost every unit including Special Forces and at main bases.