A visibly moved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saluted the organization Shalva for caring for and treating many of Israel’s disabled.
Netanyahu was speaking at the annual New Year's Toast for foreign journalists sponsored by the Government Press Office. This year's theme was honoring persons with disabilities. The prime minister had just listened to a rendition of “Hallelujah” by Shalva’s band. Both lead singers are blind and are the other six members face other physical or mental challenges.
After their performance, Netanyahu delivered an unscripted and passionate defense for the disabled. “This goes to the fundamental concept developed in this land, which was a complete departure from anything that existed in the ancient world and that is that all human beings are created in the image of God. There was an innate equality. This is the basic Jewish idea that promoted the birth and the growth of our civilization.”
Netanyahu added the soul is the heart of the matter.
“I would say that living creatures with cognitive abilities, the ability also to feel pain, sensation, grief, happiness, sadness this transcends human beings but it’s most encapsulated in human beings. It’s their soul.”
Yet Netanyahu said other forces in the world challenge that sanctity.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu address journalists.
“It’s still contested. There are many forces that contest this idea and we have to contend with them and I can say that it’s not always obvious to our critics the fundamental role that Israel plays in this region and in the world and that is to hold the forces of radicalism and intolerance and fanaticism and those that don’t recognize the universal rights of men and women and children and girls and people of different faiths that they have fundamental rights that have to be safeguarded and to guard those rights you have to do one thing: you have to be prepared to defend them.”
He lauded Shalva. “We recognize that and we salute what Shalva is doing in Israel, which I think is a beacon to the entire world. Congratulations and thank you.”
Shalva is the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. According to its website, it provides "transformative care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion."
During his remarks at the event, he discussed a host of issues affecting Israel and the Middle East including the threat of Iran, the growing relationship with Sunni Arab nations and the amazing technological achievements. But the most emotional part of the evening belonged to the least among us.