At the heart of the Emergency Logistics Warehouses in the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command base in Ramla, an extraordinary scene unfolds daily. Young soldiers, dealing with various disabilities and neurodiversity, are actively contributing to Israel’s war effort through their dedicated service in the Special in Uniform (SIU) program.
Paz Chaim, a 20-year-old soldier with severe visual impairment and other disabilities, exemplifies the unwavering spirit driving these soldiers.
“Today, I filled crates with sleeping bags. My impaired vision doesn’t limit my determination,” he asserts, proudly wearing his uniform. “I may not see distance or fine details, but I’m here to do my part. This is my mission, and I won’t let disability stand in our way!”
At the Logistics Center, soldiers unload trucks, organize supplies and prepare equipment destined for units across the country. Soldiers in one area pack uniforms, helmets, and winter socks while others sort food, water and other items soldiers need. Delivery trucks outside take everything to the units that need them.
Soldiers such as Ilai, who is on the autism spectrum, exemplify the program’s ethos.
“Me and my friends, we’ve all got different special needs,” he explains without pausing from his meticulous work. “We know how critical things are at the front, and we responded to the nation’s call, no questions asked. We’re here to give to Israel, to contribute all we can to our country and fellow citizens.”
Company commander Ran Mamman explains the pivotal role of the Ramla base and the special soldiers.
“Ramla is one of the largest logistics bases in the country, and from here we dispatch equipment to military units deployed around the country. Here at logistics, we order equipment, receive deliveries, sort items and repackage them based on the requests we receive from commanders at the front,” Mamman says.
“Their enthusiasm, diligence, and resilience contribute to a unique, positive atmosphere. Helped by their dedication, we’ve efficiently provided equipment to soldiers on the front lines,” he stresses.
E. Reiner, a reservist who directs one of the logistics packing rooms in the base, applauds the soldiers’ efforts, saying they give a lift to everyone else. “Seeing these kids working overtime with enthusiasm and energy impacts on every one of us, and we’re inspired to do the same,” Reiner explains.
The SIU program is a collaborative initiative of the IDF and Jewish National Fund-USA, which focuses on integrating young people with physical and mental disabilities into the Israeli military and society.
Around 1,000 Special in Uniform soldiers, from communities across Israel, serve in 45 bases in all branches of the IDF.
Celine Leeds, executive director of JNF-USA, emphasizes the integral role these soldiers play. “For every soldier on the front, we need two soldiers back home at logistics ensuring their needs are met,” she says. “SIU’s soldiers are instrumental in the war effort, bringing pride to Israel and the IDF.”