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Integrating Disabilities Release date 27.03.2018
One is an IAF aircrew member, the other is blind and the Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. The two formed a special bond hoping to integrate disabled people into the IAF and into Israeli society
Eynat Ravid

Seven years ago, during the New York City Triathlon, Judge Richard Bernstein of the Michigan Supreme Court met Maj. S’, a WSO (Weapon Systems Officer) in the IAF's 120th ("Desert Giants") Squadron. The two connected immediately. Judge Bernstein was a private lawyer and human rights activist who felt the need to show that disabled people can succeed in life like everybody else. Therefore, he decided to run for Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge Bernstein is blind from birth, and has never let his disability stop him. He has participated in 24 marathons, triathlons and “Iron Man” competitions. Richard was the first blind person to participate in the “Iron Man” race.

Photography: Koral Dvir

The connection between Bernstein and the IAF was formed as a result of the friendship which developed between him and Maj. S’. “When I met Richard I understood that amazing things can be done with disabled people in the IDF as well. The army is a great platform for giving the disabled equal opportunities” said Maj S’.

Overcoming Difficulties
The relationship that had formed between the two led Maj. S' to work towards enabling disabled people to serve in the IDF. "Our goal is to help people achieve their potential", he said. "Volunteers gain a lot from seeing a motivated disabled person who has a significant role in the military. They have an equal opportunity to wear their uniform, contribute and prove themselves".

Photo courtesy of the interviewee

Judge Bernstein tells us how Maj. S' influenced his life, and believes that he wouldn't have become Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court if it wasn't for Maj. S'. "Maj. S' made me believe that one could do anything if they wanted to. I am a judge thanks to him. He influenced me greatly, and continues to influence me to this day. I truly admire him", he said.

No Limits
Volunteers in the IAF face many challenges, and are provided with close support throughout their military service as a result.

Judge Bernstein has a warm spot in his heart for Israel, and he visits often. He consults private companies, courts and government offices, inspiring people with his story about the importance of integrating disabled people into society.

Photo taken from Twitter

Judge Bernstein asks disabled people to enlist into the IDF, with a message: "Each person has their own unique story, making them who they are. Everyone should know how to achieve their potential". Maj S' asks IAF commanders to integrate disabled people into their units: "It's our small contribution on the way to making Israel a better place".