Teacher Alexander Goch arrives in school daily with Erlin his Labrador, who has become an integral part of the elementary school landscape.
Goch is a disabled IDF veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the 2009 military conflict in the Gaza Strip.
Erlin was trained as a service dog to assist, facilitate and cope with daily activities in school and outside. But soon enough, has also become a source of support and comfort for the students themselves.
"The dog was trained to help me during panic attacks," Goch said. "He puts his head on my lap, and if I get angry he lays on my feet, and when I get agitated, I pet him," Goch says.
"His presence calms me down and provides me with peace and confidence. It is important to have him by my side, at all times. He's watching over me and gives me peace of mind. He understands my needs and I can call him whenever I need him," the IDF veteran says.
Goch says the students love Erlin, take care of him, always check if he ate and drank, and ask permission to pet him. "I explain that Erlin is a therapy service dog who helps me. During classes, he sits quietly on a blanket and when a child is anxious or crying, I let him pet Erlin and he calms down," he says.
"His presence is soothing to some children just by merely being near Erlin. All the children know they have to ask permission to pet him, because he can't be petted by 20 children at once," Goch explaines.
"When I told the school principal Nurit Eckstein in the interview that I use a service dog, she welcomed me to the school with open arms, and so did the faculty and students," Goch says.
"It's not a given, especially because on a daily basis, outside the school, I'm dealing with a lack of awareness. Although I present my IDF disability card and all the documents needed to prove Erlin is a service dog, I am sometimes prevented from getting on public transport or entering the mall," he says.
I've been humiliated and attacked, and have had to deal with misunderstandings. People have screamed at me and have spoken to me with contempt."
Goch decided to share his personal story in the framework of "Purple Night", a national awareness project for the people with disabilities and their rights. The Education Ministry also takes part in the project and calls for the integration of children and adults with disabilities, into society, community and the workplaces.