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Doron Almog edited 1By BERNIE BELLAN
Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog is one of Israel’s greatest living heroes. Perhaps best known as the first paratrooper commander to land at Entebbe in 1976 during Israel’s rescue operation there, he also gained renown for his lead role in Operation Moses, which brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s.

As well, Almog fought in numerous wars that Israel has been forced to fight, beginning with the War of Attrition with Egypt, followed by the Yom Kippur War (in which his brother, Lieutenant Eran Avrutsky, was killed).
General Doron was also head of Israel’s Southern Command from 2000-2003, when he protected Israel from infiltration by terrorists from Gaza.
On Sunday, March 18, Almog was the special guest speaker at the Jewish National Fund Kickoff for this year’s Negev Gala. The reason that General Almog was invited to launch the kickoff was the lead role he has played in promoting “Aleh C.A.R.E.S.”, Israel’s largest network of care for children with severe multiple disabilities.
As Almog explained to two different audiences on March 18 (one was made up of invitees to the kickoff; the other was made up of attendees at a lecture following the kickoff), he was motivated by the experience he had raising his son, Eran, who was born with severe autism and developmental delays and who died at the age of 23 (in 2007).

This year’s gala, to be held May 29, will be honouring the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity Manitoba Chapter and Dr. Gerald Niznick, the pioneer developer of dental implants. Proceeds from the gala will go toward the construction of a new Aleh C.A.R.E.S. dental clinic.
During his remarks on March 18, Almog spoke about the impact that his son had on his life. He began by saying that Eran, who was born in 1984, was named for his late brother.
Almog, however, exhibited quite a bit of anger over what he said happened to his brother during the Yom Kippur War. “My brother fought in the north with 180 Israeli tanks against more than 2000 Syrian tanks,” he said.
“He was shot by a Syrian tank – 50 metres in front of him; he was the lone survivor, thrown outside – bleeding, bleeding, shouting for assistance.
“In the military we say: ‘Never leave the wounded behind.’ But my brother was left behind – seven days – alone. His company continued on. At the end he was evacuated – dead already.
“After the war I built a memorial for him, but I swore I would never, ever leave a solider behind…After 35 years in the military I was in hundreds of battles, lost many friends, but I never left a wounded solider behind. That was my oath to my brother.”

Almog continued with his story, moving on to describe what happened when his son (his second child) was born.
At the age of eight months, Doron was diagnosed as having severe autism and other mental disabilities. “We (Almog and his wife, Didi) were told that he would probably “stay that (mental) age forever.
“And then, this child, who never spoke a word, became the greatest teacher of my life,” Almog said.
“We moved from institute to institute. We saw what terrible, stinky places they were… they had a horrible smell. Then we started hearing more stories about ignorance, about shame (associated with being parents of mentally disabled children).”

At that point Almog told two stories that were indicative of the attitude that was pervasive in Israel at the time his son was born.
“Golda Meir,” Almog said - “the ‘Iron Woman’ who told me and my friends,” after the Munich Massacre of the 11 Israeli athletes, “go and hunt them down… I led the first team in Tripoli, killing 18….Golda, the Iron Woman, also was a grandmother – of Meira. Meira had Downs Syndrome.
“Meira was married. After Golda passed, Meira said: ‘Golda never visited me. Golda was fully ashamed of my presence. Golda told my mom, “Don’t ever mention me.”

Almog continued: “And then more stories. Yigal Allon – he was Deputy Prime Minister when we flew to Entebbe…Yigal Allon was also a father to Nurit. He never spoke a word about Nurit. Until the age five Nurit did not speak. At the age five, Allon wondered, ‘What do we do?’
“Allon decided ‘no room for Nurit in our family, no room for Nurit in our kibbutz, no room for Nurit in the State of Israel.’
“Nurit was taken overseas to Scotland. Once a year he visited her, never spoke a word about her.
“There are more and more and more stories,” Almog said.

It was as a result of the extreme marginalization of mentally disabled children, such as Meira, Nurit, and so many others that Almog has now dedicated his life to improving the lives of other children who may suffer from similar disabilities, Almog explained.
And it was why he came all the way to Winnipeg to explain to our community how important this year’s Negev Gala is to the cause to which he has now dedicated his life.

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