Original Source: Article published in The Jerusalem Post.

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Photo by: Yakov Levit and Ilana Yaacov for Sheba Medical Center

Rivlin to Palestinians: ‘Stop doing this – there is another way.’

The rehabilitation program of wounded IDF veterans is plagued by failures, Haim Bar, chairman of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, said on Sunday during an event honoring soldiers injured in the line of duty.

Organized by the Defense Ministry and hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at his residence, the event was one of a series marking the second annual Appreciation Day to raise awareness for veterans and victims of terrorism.

The event was attended by President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Welfare Minister Haim Katz. Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, injured IDF soldiers, terrorism victims and their families were also in attendance.

Addressing Rivlin, Bar said: “The defense minister, while serving as deputy prime minister and minister for strategic affairs, said that rehabilitating disabled IDF veterans is an important component of national security. On this day specifically, when the Israeli people and youth movements honor those wounded in Israel’s wars, we are exposed to failings in the rehabilitation of injured veterans.”

Bar cited difficulties faced by wounded veterans, adding, “I am sure that this is not what the defense minister meant in his speech.”

In his address, Rivlin spoke of the “heavy price” paid by all those who have suffered war and terrorism, emphasizing that he could “see the road [they] went on and how hard a journey it is.”

Rivlin reached out to the Palestinian people, stating: “[To] our neighbors, the Palestinians: stop doing this – there is another way.”

A video feature profiled Ron Halevi, Israel’s top kayaker, who lost a leg while serving in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Now ranked 26th in the world, Halevi and his story exemplified the defiance of disabled veterans.

“We’re on a path where you go forward and don’t look back,” Halevi’s father said of life after his son’s injury.

Discussing the recent violence, Ya’alon encouraged the audience not to give up. “In these times,” he said, “I ask you to continue to fight terrorism. We don’t have another choice or another land.”

The event ended with a moving speech by Uzi Mor, a disabled veteran of the Yom Kippur War and father of a fallen soldier. Looking to the future, Mor said: “I was in a lot of wars… I want to help. This isn’t the last war [and] there’s so much work to do.” On a hopeful note, the veteran said he looks forward to “a land of sweetness, and not blood.”

Founded last year as an initiative between the Education Ministry and a range of organizations, including the OneFamily Foundation, Appreciation Day aims to empower and provide support for disabled veterans and victims of terrorism in Israel.

On Sunday, the foundation provided tours in Jerusalem for hundreds of people wounded in terrorist attacks. Chantal Belzberg, the organization’s CEO, praised Appreciation Day, saying that it was “important to embrace the wounded throughout the year.”

Elite Paul contributed to this report.