When Haim Lavie was born, the prognosis was not good – the doctor told his mother that he would never walk or speak. 20 years later, Haim is a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces.
“As his mother, seeing him wearing his uniform is a dream come true since it stands for so much. It means that Haim will be able to get along in life, he will be able to work within various frameworks and still function well, and it also means that he will be able to live with his limitations. And this makes me very happy.”
Shai Jamber made history when he became the first intellectually disabled soldier that gained the title of “an outstanding soldier.” Shai is 27 years old, and from the city of Rehovot. He enlisted three years ago as part of the AKIM ISRAEL’s IDF project: Equal in Uniform. This project includes the intellectually disabled in the army. Shai serves as responsible for the inventory in the fighting equipment center.
“Shai executes his tasks seriously, with a lot of responsibility and devotion, and pays a lot of attention to the security aspect,” said General Yaacov (Kobi) Barak, who is the commander of the Logistics and Technological Section in the IDF, during the ceremony that was held last week. “He has an endless capacity of giving,” says General Barak. “I check batteries from 08:00-14:00 every day,” says Jamber. He was very moved when he received the certificate of excellence and said that he wanted to enlist because he wanted to contribute to the country and to show what he was really worth. “I am proud to wear the uniform” he concluded. He wanted to pass on a message to his peer group: “that everybody would be like me”.
Sigal Peretz Yahalomi has stated that the AKIM IDF project helps the intellectually disabled be integrated and included in the community . The soldiers, many of which meet an intellectually disabled person for the first time, realize the value of everyone being “born in His image.” This makes Israeli society a better place.”
Haim and Shai chose to be part of AKIM’s unique SAR-EL program. This program, in partnership with the Israel Defense Forces, places young adults (21-30) who have an intellectual disability in the army, allowing them to serve and contribute to Israel’s safety and security via military service.