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 News From Israel 2.3.24

01/03/2024 12:34:06 PM


Shabbat Shalom, 

I want to thank you all for your warm wishes, I feel much better now and I’m happy to be back.

As many of you know, Omri and I also work at the Reena foundation - a non-profit organization for people with developmental disabilities. The work in Reena has been absolutely incredible, and we are nothing short of lucky to be able to have the opportunity and the honor to be the first Shinshinim at Reena. 

But I’m not only here today to talk about the incredible work Reena does, but as usual, we like to talk about ourselves.

My first time meeting someone with developmental disabilities was right when I was born. My older brother, Elad, is autistic.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what autistic means, or that that is the diagnosis my brother had. In kindergarten, a girl came up to me a day after she saw my family and I at the pool, and felt the need to tell me that my brother is autistic, and walk away. The same day, I asked my mom what that meant. She told me that being autistic means you sometimes need a bit more help with communicating. I shrugged, and that was the end of it.

To this day, I see my brother, and people with disabilities in the same light I did when I was 5. Everyone needs more help on one thing or another - and our role as friends and family is to help them overcome the difficulty.they might be facing in a certain situation.

I learned that not everyone saw it in the same way I did. Not due to malicious reasons, but out of lack of knowledge and experience.

Some of my friends, at first, had some questions.        

Whether it was protecting him, being jealous of him or getting to skip lines in the airport because his patience is thin, my experience with my older brother, to some of my friends, seemed weird at the time. It was so different from what they knew, and all I’ve ever known. But my friend’s questions would usually go away when I would joke about how my brother and I get along without beating each other up.

Although one question that somehow still got asked sometimes, is if I had an option to “cure” my brother, or grow up with a different one, would I. My answer was, still is, and forever will be no. While having a brother with autism has its own set of challenges, each sibling does, as I’m sure a lot of you can understand. But not only do I believe it did not have bigger challenges than some of my other friends, but I believe it was a blessing like no other.

I would like to tell you a little bit about Elad. My brother is one of the best people I’ve ever met. He is funny, and has jokes that can make anyone smile. He is sweet and caring, and will always ask what is going on. He is punctual, organized and has an amazing memory. No family vacation would be on track without him, people would forget birthdays, and we would forget to plan who to invite to every single Kiddush.

Every single person that has known my brother, has fallen in love with him. It’s almost impossible not to.

After finishing high school, he did a volunteer year in the Shearei Tzedek hospital’s kitchen, that is meant to replace army service - Sherut Leumi. But after finishing, he decided he still wants to join the army - just like everyone else. He was able to volunteer to the army, working in the kitchen of his base, and he has never been happier with his newfound responsibility and independence, and we couldn't be prouder.

When I was in Israel, I got the opportunity to visit my brother in his base. Every single person who heard I was Elad’s sister, came over to tell me how incredible he is, how much they love him and how if they could they would clone him and fill up the kitchen with Elad.

Growing up, my brother has been one of the main things shaping my personality - and I am so much better for it. It doesn’t matter that he needs a bit more help communicating, because his personality and abilities make everyone around him happier and better, and we are all lucky to have him.

We are all lucky to have people in our lives and in our world that have diverse abilities. We all have diverse abilities ourselves, and our differences our what make the world work. If everyone were exactly the same - we would have only one profession, one opinion, and we would live in a boring, homogenous world. Our differences push us forward as a society, and improve us as individuals.

So today I'm choosing to show gratitude for the diverse world we live in, and for the honor to be called Elad Durst’s sister.

Shabbat Shalom.


Wed, 29 May 2024 21 Iyyar 5784