Israeli Maj. Gen. Doron Almog fought in several of Israel’s wars and has lost family members to illness and military conflict. Yet he remains hopeful as he embarks on a huge project to make Israel and the world a kinder, more inclusive place.
Almog, 67, recently was in Los Angeles as part of a trip to the United States to raise money for ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village, a facility in southern Israel that provides support to children and young adults with multiple disabilities.
Founded by Almog in 2004, the village sits on 40 acres and supplies more than 700 children throughout Israel with services that include medical care, special education schooling, cultural activities, therapeutic sports and outpatient treatment.
“ALEH-Negev is a role model for the world and shows [us] how to treat the weak, disabled and wounded,” Almog told the Journal. “We are committed to serving the disabled children of Israel.”
For Almog, the ALEH-Negev project is personal. His son, Eran, who died at the age of 23 in 2007, was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and autism when he was 8 months old. “I swore to love him and raise him, and never to abandon or ignore him,” Almog said. “He never spoke one word or made eye contact, but he became the greatest teacher of my life. He taught me about the place of children like him in our society and about ourselves, and gave me mighty power to begin fighting for children like him.”
Almog has been fighting his whole life in one form or another. Born in 1951 to parents who taught him to love and protect his country, he led an operational task force in Tripoli in 1973 against the Palestinian terrorists who killed members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics, and fought in the Yom Kippur War.
“He never spoke one word or made eye contact, but he became the greatest teacher of my life. He taught me about the place of children like him in our society.” — Doron Almog
During that war, Almog’s brother Eran, whom he named his son after, was killed. Eran was shot in the left leg and bled for seven days before succumbing to his injury.
“When I discovered the circumstances of my brother’s death, I was frustrated and angry, and at the same time I swore to stay in the military and never, ever leave a wounded soldier behind,” Almog said. “The reason for my long military service is my bleeding brother.”
After the Yom Kippur War, Almog became the commander of the first force that landed in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976, as part of the operation to rescue Israelis from an Air France flight that had been hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Almog also commanded the elite paratroopers brigade in the first Lebanon War in 1982 and led missions to bring 6,000 Jews in Ethopia to Israel from the Sudanese refugee camps in 1984 and 1985. He was the commander in chief of the Israeli Southern Command from 2000-2003 before he left to focus on starting ALEH-Negev.
Almog recently raised $23 million for ALEH-Negev but said the organization needs more funds to build housing for students, employees, doctors, nurses, volunteers and families to live and work in the village.
Though Almog still carries the pain of losing his son, he continues to honor Eran’s life through ALEH-Negev. “His spirit spread all over the village,” Almog said. “We are all committed to serving the disabled children in Israel and making the correction in Israeli society in respect to how we treat our children. We are serving justice to and loving those who are unable to be independent and to be free.”