IDF’s Special in Uniform Member Inspires Teens at FCVC
There wasn’t a sound as Daniel Defur, 19, stepped to the podium wearing his uniform khakis.
A member of the Israel Defense Forces Special in Uniform division, Daniel held more than 230 teens and adults at the annual Friendship Circle Volunteer Celebration in rapt attention as he explained how he’d made many of his dreams come true; starting with serving in the IDF.
That Daniel would get to serve in the army wasn’t a forgone conclusion as it is for many of his peers, because Daniel was born very prematurely and lost his eyesight permanently when he was 15.
“When I heard that I wasn’t going to fulfill my dream of going to the IDF, I felt really bad,” he said, adding that he thought that was the end of his dream.
And it almost was, until last year when he was asked to work on a school project recognizing the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Thinking outside the box, Daniel wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explaining that he was blind but often heard the sound of the PM’s armored car whizzing past on his way to school.
“I asked if he would let me sit, for five minutes, in his armored car.”
The prime minister was so touched by Daniel’s letter, he arranged for a meeting – in that armored car.
“During the tour with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he asked me what dreams do I have,” Daniel recalled. “ … I said I want my vision back, but you are not G-d or a doctor, so I [said] I want to serve in the IDF.”
Within 24 hours, Daniel was meeting with representatives of Special in Uniform, a project of the Jewish National Fund that trains and places young adults with special needs in the IDF. The organization, which began in 2014 with just 50 young adults, now serves more than 300, with each person being assigned to a job within the IDF that best fits their individual skills.
He has since been inducted into the IDF.
Daniel’s address was the keynote speech at the annual FCVC event, held this year on May 9, at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston. FCVC honors Friendship Circle’s teen volunteers for their hard work throughout the school year. This year, 14 teens and young adults received the President’s Volunteer Service Award and 90 volunteers received the Jerry Waldor Fellowship Award along with an Israel Bond for in recognition of their volunteerism.
“I think the highlight for me was Daniel,” said Emily Altschuler, who has been volunteer with FC for three years and is graduating from high school. “It was just so cool how he overcame hardship and is in the [Israel] army and got to meet the prime minister. It shows people that they shouldn’t let things get in the way of enjoying life.”
Speaking after the program, Major (Res.) Tiran Attia, the executive director of Special in Uniform, said that he wants teens to take away one message from Daniel that “no situation is hopeless.”
“Teens experience a lot of challenges,” Attia said. “When you see people with different abilities strive in daily life you realize that your own struggle is beyond compare and they are surviving. Every situation has hope.”