Some 14 million Jews worldwide comprise the Jewish nation and will celebrate our nation’s birth tomorrow night, when we sit at the seder table to celebrate the first night of Pesach. Together we will read from the Haggadah: “And there they became a mighty nation”.
What defines a nation and more so, what makes a nation mighty?
The greatness of the Israelites in Egypt was their ability to stay united, overcome hardships and retain their humanity. Today, nearly 3,500 years later, are we still mighty? No doubt we have built a great modern, advanced country that is leading the world in many ways. We have formed a society that leans on Jewish values, strives for social justice and aspires to be united but not uniformed.
In two weeks we will celebrate Israel’s 68th year of independence. The Jewish world will march in parades, dance to Israeli music, serve Israeli dishes and rejoice for our miraculous Jewish state.
And Israel will celebrate its independence by honoring its most outstanding members, people who have contributed more than others to the development, justice and strength of our country.
Joining other Israel Prize laureates, will be Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, who will accept this prestigious honor from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. This prize acknowledges his lifetime achievement for his contribution in revolutionizing care facilities for Israelis with special needs.
Doron Almog, a retired Israel Defense Forces major general, lost his eldest son Eran who was born with severe autism and developmental handicaps to Castleman’s disease in 2007. Over the past two decades, Almog has worked extensively with ALEH, an organization operating state-of-the-art rehabilitative villages for Israelis with severe disabilities.
Almog has taken part in some of Israel’s most daring military operations, but claims that “Taking care of my boy,” is the most immense challenge he had ever faced. Eran had never said “Dad” or “Mom” but nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, Almog says, “Raising Eran has made me a better human being. By constantly being forced to ask myself what he needs, I became a more sensitive person, more attuned to those with limitations.”
Over the years, Almog has devoted energy not only to caring for his own son, but also to improving the welfare of all children in Israel with severe disabilities—through his involvement in Aleh.
In Almog’s eulogy for his son, he mentioned Eran’s unwritten will and legacy. “You were the greatest teacher I ever had in my life. You taught me unconditional love, about giving without limits, about the true measure of how to cope with difficulties—even those of inconceivable standards. You silently asked that I serve as your voice, that I speak in your name everywhere in the world, that I cry out on behalf of the weakest members in society to demand the rights they deserve, that I try to effect real change— I could only make that happen with the strength of the power you bequeathed me“.
Aleh, in many ways, is a microcosm of Israel—a beautiful peaceful oasis in the Negev desert, housing patients from all sectors of society, including secular, Orthodox and haredi Jews, as well as those who are Israeli born along with new immigrants. Bedouins, Arabs and other minorities make up its constituents. And side-by-side, all sectors of society work tirelessly to offer best, most respectful treatment to those in need.
Many of our JCC groups visit this oasis while visiting Aleh as part of their Israel trips. There they get to meet amazing people, patients, staff and volunteers, who demonstrate on a daily basis what a mighty nation looks like.
A mighty nation is a nation that treats all its members with equality, compassion, respect and recognition. A mighty nation recognizes the needs of its most vulnerable residents.
We will read again on Friday night that we were redeemed from Egypt, successfully built a nation, stood against evil and danger, threats and horrors and after wondering, dreaming, praying and fighting, we formed a state, a wonderful home for the Jewish people. A home to our mighty nation.
Doron Almog fought for the Jewish state, risked his life in battle and lost friends in combat and then he kept fighting to meet his most sacred challenge, one that aims to better our society, bridge gaps and offer a respectful life to those in need.
I would like to invite you to join us in a special call with Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, where he will address our JCC Movement and share his personal story. (find his bio here)
This call is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 3, 12:30 EDT. Dial-in Number:
From the US: 641.715.3836
From Canada: 605.781.0006
From Israel: 0765990060
Participant Access Code: 178657
The Haggadah teaches us “In every generation an individual must envision for himself that he is leaving Egypt.” We may have become a nation in leaving Egypt, a mighty one, but the responsibility of caring for our nation, assuring it remains mighty is an everlasting commitment. One that we should fulfill with pride and humbleness.
L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim!
Leah Garber, Vice President, Director, JCC Israel Center