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June 7, 2016 3:25 pm

Israeli Politician Yair Lapid’s Facebook Post About His Autistic Daughter’s IDF Graduation Goes Viral, Brings Country to Tears

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair Lapid, with his daughter, Yael, at her IDF graduation ceremony. Photo: Facebook.

Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair Lapid, with his daughter, Yael, at her IDF graduation ceremony. Photo: Facebook.

Israel’s former finance minister moved the country to tears on Tuesday with a post on Facebook about his special-needs daughter, who just finished serving in the IDF.

MK Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid Party, wrote:

At her graduation ceremony, Yaeli saluted her commanding officer. She wore a uniform and an orange beret, and her father wiped his eyes and hoped nobody could see.

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Her class – a class of young people with special needs – volunteered for the entire year on a base of the IDF National Search and Rescue Unit. They contributed as much as they could.

The soldiers and commanders were charming and attentive and treated them with respect and affection. “I don’t know who learned more from whom this year,” a 19-year-old sergeant told me, with a huge smile.

“So you’re now a soldier like Lior?” I asked Yaeli, and my non-speaking daughter nodded forcefully.

The next time someone tells you that the only role of the army is to fight, send him the photo I attached here. Maybe it’s true of other armies, but the IDF is much more than that.

Within hours, Lapid’s post went viral, with thousands of likes, shares and sympathetic comments — from across the political spectrum. Among these were parents in a similar situation.

As one Facebook user, Esty Cohen, wrote:

Dear Yair, there is no pain in the world like that which you are feeling. I identify with you and with all the sorrow that emerges between your words. You have come a long way with your daughter, and now you have a little parental pride. I, too, have a child with special needs, or, as he calls it – abnormality. My son speaks and looks like any other kid, but has difficulty learning and expressing himself, and everything comes late for him. He also volunteered in the army, where everybody loved him, and he received a badge of honor. But at the end of the day, he is my child and my responsibility. I want only to encourage and strengthen you, and to wish you and your daughter happiness and success as much as is possible.

According to the Hebrew news site nrg, a few years ago, Lapid and his wife, journalist, author and photographer Lihi, made it public that their daughter, Yael, was diagnosed with autism. Lapid also talked about it during one of his many interviews, saying: “When [she] was diagnosed as autistic, my wife… fell apart. I told her then that I had finished my debate with destiny. I have no intention of crying or complaining about my miserable fate. Instead, I will do my best with Yaeli.”

Before entering politics in 2012, Lapid – son of the late journalist-turned-politician Yosef “Tommy” Lapid (and author Shulamit Lapid) was famous in Israel as a TV host, print journalist and author. Yesh Atid, which he founded, won an astounding 19 Knesset seats (out of 120) in the first election it entered, in 2013, making it the second largest party at the time. He served as finance minister until 2014.

In an interview with The Algemeiner in April 2014, Lihi spoke about how she became an advocate for the special-needs community soon after Yael, then 17, was diagnosed. At a Hebrew University conference, she said of her daughter, “I don’t know who I am without her. I don’t know what kind of person I am. I definitely don’t know what kind of adult I am. She made me the person I am.”

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  • yes, congratulations to Yael Lapid, Yair & Lihi Lapid, the IDF, and the people of Israel. we know that serving in the IDF is ‘almost equivalent’ to ‘joining’ the Israel community; the IDF (along with ‘national service’) among its many other functions (primarily defending us all against external predators) has long served as a kind of ‘finishing school’ for our high school graduates. sort of an adult balancing the family and personal education focus with in-life recognition of duty to the country that makes both family and personal education possible. these are the combination of both payback time and national certification that help unite us laterally with each other and vertically from grandparent to grandchildren. it’s a shame the wider (other than the haredi units of the IDF, the various medical volunteers, etc.) haredi and arab communities have ignored this road to functional israeli citizenship. and its also a shame the long time active citizens of the Druse and Bedouin havent been shown to have gotten equal privileges to correspond to their equally responsible services — both national and military.

  • Michele Hirsch

    My heart is overflowing with love,joy and gratitude after reading this post.I too echo the sentiments voiced By Lihi Lapid. My son Has Aspergers -high functioning Autism- and my journey with him has sandpapered my heart and soul into G-d’s beloved sculptures.

  • Reform School

    The flexibility of the IDF to meet challenges most other armies would not bother with belies most haredi claims about national service.

  • Thank you for another well written, sensitive article. Autism was becoming recognized at an unprecedented rate all over the world. While there is still no solution, the problem is being handled in Israel in a realistic way. You deal with it and treat kids as best you can.
    We wonder about the cause of this affliction, but we still have to prepare for the real world. Showing these young people that they are a valuable asset to their family and country is an astounding feat.
    Israel is doing more for their kids than any other country that I can imagine. There is a place for every person, especially if they live in Israel, where everybody is family. Kol ha Kovod.

  • Glenda Urmacher

    I don’t know very much about autism, but I don’t understand how a child can first be diagnosed at 17!
    Signs show up early on.
    God bless her and her print an may they all be strong.

    • Glenda….reading is fundamental. Re-read the article, it doesn’t say it was diagnosed when she was 17. It says he was discussing when he became as advocate after she was diagnosed and he had that conversation when she was 17.

  • Lia

    I am so touched and so proud of both parents and, above all, of their daughter.

  • Beth Goldberg

    it is wonderful that the IDF has found a role for autistiz tndividuals and uses their special skills.

  • Beth Goldberg

    It is wonderful that the IDF has found a way to utilize the
    special skills of autistic children.

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