“They learn how to be good friends, to accept people who are different”.
A soldier from the Maintenance Squadron at “Sde Dov” Airbase As a result of the personal story of First Sergeant Paz Yaakov from “Sde Dov” Airbase, a unique relationship between the “Kiryat Shalom” nursing home in Tel Aviv and the soldiers of the Maintenance Squadron at the Airbase has formed
“Rumor has it over at Sde Dov, that there’s a guy who does origami here, so they compete over who’ll come to meet me”, says Ilan, one of the residents of “Kiryat Shalom” nursing home, as the soldiers begin strolling inside.
“Kiryat Shalom”, a nursing and rehabilitation center, has 90 residents who suffer from various physical or mental disabilities. This is one of the only places in Israel that takes in the young as well. Every Tuesday, five soldiers from the squadron arrive here. This week, we were there.
Until breakfast ends, Ilan shows us how to construct a flower from paper. The display behind him boasts dozens of paper statues, created with his own hands. Afterward, he unveils a bottle of fragrant substance and allows us to spray some on the flowers. “They come here to make us feel good, so I need to give them something nice in return”, he says.
The residents of the home suffered from disabilities as a result of diseases, car accidents or birth related problems. “The soldiers here are acquainted with a different reality”, says Executive First Sergeant Ronny Levi, Workforce Manager in the Engine Department of the Airbase. “They learn to appreciate what they have, to appreciate their surroundings”.
Suddenly, one of the residents approaches our photographer. “I was also a photographer, for the “Golani” brigade”, he says. “Some of the people here have cognitive injuries”, explains Ira, “the uniform speaks to them. It’s a symbol. When they see soldiers in uniform, suddenly there’s light. It’s a day that’s a celebration”.
A Different Life
The unique relationship between the squadron and the home started two years ago, in a birthday celebration.
The Airbase decided to donate a personalized laptop to Maya, the sister of First Sergeant Paz Yaakov who serves at the Squadron, who suffers from cerebral palsy. In order to activate the computer, which was placed on a table built by the squadron, Maya uses a special switch which she clicks with her cheek.
“When I told my personal story to my commander, I hoped he’d be considerate with me and allow me to leave in order to help take care of my sister”, says Paz. “I never imagined that as a result of it, the entire squadron would pull through and begin volunteering here. Every person has the sense to contribute, to help, but it’s not easy. I think that my friends here leave with food for thought. People ask me when they can come and visit again”.
“These soldiers are a powerful link in this country”, says Lieutenant Colonel Uri, Commander of the Squadron. “They may be young, but they have to know even at this age that there are different kinds of lives. People suddenly get perspective; learn to be good friends, to accept people who are different”.