By Doron Almog-Avrutsky
The opening of the Harvey and Gloria Kaylie Rehabilitation Medical Center at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran constitutes a momentous occasion for all Israelis, but especially for the residents of Israel’s southern region. This long awaited center will enhance their lives and provide relief to so many who have suffered for decades.
The rehabilitative process can be likened to the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt. It is a grueling passage from bondage to freedom, a process during which those who are wounded draw on their physical and emotional strength to cross a Red Sea of pain and suffering in an effort to regain their independence and restore self-respect.
But what is the fate of those who lack the strength to reach these coveted shores of independence? This is the point at which society confronts the ultimate communal and national test – the test of mutual responsibility, of loving each person as they are.
“It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneering vigor of Israel shall be tested,” proclaimed David Ben-Gurion, the primary national founder of the State of Israel. Yet, to this day, the realization of Ben-Gurion’s optimistic vision of the blossoming of the desert proceeds at a sluggish pace.
For years, residents of the south have been forced to trek to the center of the country in search of quality medical care, because even the most basic medical services are unavailable close to home. Long journeys are followed by lengthy waits to been seen by a doctor, admitted for rehabilitative hospitalization or receive much needed therapies, all the while braving the non-stop pain of physical ailments.
Opening the first-ever rehabilitation hospital in the Negev is an act of great historical importance for all residents of southern Israel, from Kiryat Gat to Eilat. Personally, it is an emotionally charged event, a fulfillment of my oath to my brother, Eran, who was left to bleed to death on the battlefield for seven days until his lifeless body was retrieved, as well as to my son, Eran, who was born with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, referred to individuals like my son as “elevated souls,” those who came into this world truly vulnerable and whose mission is not to repair themselves but to heal the environment around them, to help and heal us, to create a better, more caring, more inclusive world. A true “Tikkun Olam.”
Standing with me during this momentous occasion are our dedicated medical professionals, who pledge to lovingly provide top-level rehabilitative care of international acclaim. While working around the clock and with great expertise to empower those touched by disability, they also shatter common prejudices and stereotypes, striving to ensure that individuals like our son, Eran, will be accepted as members of society, granting hope to people with disabilities, the wounded and the vulnerable.
The Harvey and Gloria Kaylie Rehabilitative Medical Center will provide much more than medical care for the residents of the south. This state-of-the-art rehabilitation hospital will significantly increase employment opportunities, expanding the range and variety of jobs available for area residents, including health- and welfare-related professions, administrative positions and general workers. Within the parameters of the hospital, we will also collaborate with universities and research-based institutes of the highest levels in Israel and abroad to discover groundbreaking and novel treatments and technologies.
At ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, Jews, Muslims and Christians work side-by-side in genuine harmony. With one mind and one heart, they are dedicated to the wellbeing of people with disabilities, and no thought is given to gender, race, religion or politics. They concentrate only on the holy work that they must work together to complete.
Here in the Negev, we are creating an exciting new era of professional, social, medical and economic might for the State of Israel, constantly mindful that the strength of the societal chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Every action we take to strengthen that link will empower us to become better people and a more just society. This is the ultimate test of mutual responsibility and love of all humanity. It is one more small step on our journey towards becoming a morally refined society.
Major General (Res.) Doron Almog-Avrutsky is a decorated IDF soldier, Israel Prize Laureate, and the Founder and Chairman of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran (www.adi-israel.org). An ardent Zionist and world renown social justice champion, Doron was recently elected the Executive Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.