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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Israel’s strength rooted in commitment

The simple truth as told by Doron Almog....

Israel’s strength rooted in commitment, Almog says

Written by Joanne Hill
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
TORONTO – Doron Almog of the Israeli Defence Forces told a rapt audience recently that Israel’s strength is rooted in commitment, the country’s commitment to its citizens and the reciprocal commitment of Israelis – and Zionists throughout the world – to Israel.
In a dignified yet moving speech, the retired Major General spoke from the heart, without notes, about his own family's sacrifices and commitment at a luncheon presented by the Canada Israel Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s about iron will,” Almog said, “It’s about commitment. It’s about our society.”

Almog served in the IDF from 1969 to 2004. He fought in four wars and led a successful anti-terrorism campaign, which prevented more than 12,000 planned terrorist attacks from Gaza. At the age of 22, he survived the Yom Kippur War but his 20-year-old brother, Eran, did not. Although he could have opted out, Almog chose to continue to serve in the IDF. He said there was no question in his or his parents’ minds about what he called the first major commitment of his life.

Both of his parents were born in British Mandate Palestine and fought in the War of Independence. “The supreme dream of their life was building a Jewish state.... I grew up in a home that every Saturday, the friends from ’48 came together and spoke on the war and the losses.”

In 1976, Almog was the first Israeli soldier to fly into Entebbe, Uganda, where he played an active role in the rescue of 105 Israeli hostages. Years later, he helped bring Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel.

“What (were) these operations all about? It’s a commitment of the state of Israel for people who are in misery, suffering, in distress, to bring them to the only Jewish state in the world.”

Although he was never wounded in battle, he lost many friends and loved ones. Five members of his family were murdered in the terrorist bombing of the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa in 2003 and a 21-year-old relative was killed in the Battle of Bint Jbeil during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The second major commitment of Almog’s life was to his now-deceased son who was born autistic and severely mentally disabled. Almog described his son Eran as “the greatest professor of my life” even though he was never able to utter a single word.
“I had an ongoing debate with my son. Shouting by his silence. In this ongoing debate he said to me, ‘My dear father, you can be totally ashamed. It’s your choice to tell that you have an autistic child or to hide it.... You can stand every place in the world and tell the audience what a wonderful general you were.... It doesn't touch me, it's not about my life. I need someone to protect me.’

"So we decided to love him, me and my wife. We decided to raise him, we decided never to be ashamed, we decided also to fight for him.”

When Eran turned 21, he was no longer eligible for special education services. Almog left the IDF and has since devoted much of his time and energy to raising awareness and funds for the Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitative Village, which currently houses and cares for 650 children with physical and developmental disabilities, and is only partially financed by the government of Israel. Eran spent the last year of his life as a resident of the Village.

As well, Almog is the executive chairman of Athlone Global Security (AGS), which invests in companies that specialize in technologies designed for homeland security but also serve other purposes.

In an interview with the Jewish Tribune, Almog spoke of the values that Israel shares with other democratic nations such as a commitment to liberty and justice, but also emphasized its unique Jewish nature, all of which are in stark contrast with anti-Israel groups that demonstrate and campaign in Canada and elsewhere.

“I was accused [of being] a war criminal in the UK. So I know how they use information, I know their cynical method of manipulating the truth and harnessing information to increase antisemitism and attack the legitimacy of the state of Israel.... Doron Almog or a specific incident (such as the recent Gaza flotilla) is not interesting from their point of view. They try to use a specific case to create delegitimization of the state of Israel.
“The main difference between them and us is that we choose life and some of them choose death. Death as a method, death as a philosophy: destruction and death.

“What’s their goal, what do they want at the end? Do they prefer a peaceful solution or do they prefer a totalitarian solution, forcing fundamentalism by Sharia law over the world? And most of them say, without any blink, ‘we prefer Sharia law in the long term, we would like a different world, a monolithic world of Islam, of people who are living according to one law, in obedience to fundamentalist Islam.’

“I’m in favour of looking inside, trying to be better people and trying to do good things for our people and for the rest of the world and judge ourselves by what kind of goodness we bring to our world. Let’s talk about technology, medication, how we can make our world a better place with a better quality of life, not better demonstrations, not more hatred. And that’s the main difference between these jihadis and Islamists and us. Ask what goodness they've brought in the last 100 years and what goodness the state of Israel and Jews have brought. How many Nobel prizes they’ve brought and we’ve brought.
“We intend good. We’d like to have peace around us. We would like to spread love, but if we need to fight and protect ourselves, we'll do it, and we’re committed to do it.”
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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 June 2010 )

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