IDF special needs band boosting soldier morale amid war

Gdolim Bemadim band, comprising special needs soldiers, aims to spread joy among ranks; group expected to travel to US to perform before donors supporting IDF and band

Sharon Kidon|Updated:

On October 7, members of the IDF band Gdolim Bemadim, consisting of four groups and 30 soldiers with various special needs (including autism, cerebral palsy, cognitive disabilities and more), embarked on an emotional tour to IDF bases throughout Israel, in hotels housing evacuated residents, in hospitals where wounded soldiers were being treated, and also in front of senior officials.
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The band, established to raise awareness for the importance of integrating people with disabilities into society, is led by Ido Dekel, former commander of the Israeli Air Force band.
2 View gallery
Members of the Gdolim Bemadim band
Members of the Gdolim Bemadim band
Members of the Gdolim Bemadim band
(Photo: Yaron Brener)
The band was created as part of a program initiated by the Lend a Hand to a Special Child association and JNF-USA, integrating about a thousand Israeli youth with special needs, into around 60 IDF bases.
"When we performed in front of the IDF Chief of Staff, he said we are his band, and it was inspiring and beneficial for us," says Neta Suliman, one of the band members. "For me, what he said basically means that we’re a welcomed and moving band despite our disabilities," she says
"Since the beginning of the war, we’ve been visiting many bases and performing in front of soldiers, and sometimes we also visit wounded soldiers in hospitals. We also perform in front of evacuees," says Adi Yehuda, another band member. "Our goal is to bring joy and raise morale."
2 View gallery
The band performing at a hospital
The band performing at a hospital
The band performing at a hospital
(Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)
"We’re also flying to Miami soon, to sing in front of the people who donate to Gdolim Bemadim," adds Daniel Yitzhak Dahari, also a band member. "We believe in everyone's right to contribute and take part in their way, and we’ll create a better society here together."
How does the audience react to your performances? "In every performance, when I look at the audience, I see the joy on their faces and their surprise when it ends, when they realize that there exists a framework that helps people with disabilities integrate successfully,” says Yehuda.
“One time, at one of the shows, a family told me they were introduced to the program thanks to our performance, and now they’re more at ease about their brother who’s about to finish high school soon," she adds. "We convey a very important message to the soldiers and everyone else in our performances, showing them that they can have fun alongside us and that we can integrate into all facets of life."
Your parents are surely excited to see you perform. "My parents are always here for me. They appreciate me for being involved in a field I love,” says Amit Samochi, another member of the band.
First published: 00:23, 02.22.24
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