Her sons Deputy Sherlo, Armored Officer, and Benihu Gross, 17 years old with Down Syndrome, have not separated since they first met • Her sons: "Who defines people as disabled is the company"
"Those who dare discover amazing things." Construction and Construction // Photo: Tzahi Miriam
This is the first day. I had fun. I boarded a plane to the clouds. I wasn't afraid to fly. I miss my mom, dad, my nieces, my sisters, my brother the soldier. On the plane I had pressure in my ears but I grabbed my nose and then it passed. And I saw the clouds and my grandfather there "(Benihu Gross's Journey Diary, November 10, 2019. Greece)
The trip was carefully planned, minute by minute. The route was known in advance and everything that could go wrong was taken into account, but late on the first day of the trip in Greece, in a moment of crisis, Deputy Construction Sherlo (23), a makeup armor officer, grabbed his head and wondered what he was thinking when he took his apprentice with him ( 17), suffering from Down syndrome, for a week-long trip to a foreign country. "Maybe I took on too much?"
Two months after returning from the trip, we met at the Gross family home in the Elazar settlement in Gush Etzion. Downstairs, Benyahu's family were preparing for a festive screening of the short documentary film created by the two. Dozens of attendees, friends and acquaintances, already crowded into the living room, pizzas and pastries lined up on the table, the hot soup waiting to warm visitors on a cold winter's night.
"I knew his sons a decade ago," Benia recalls. He was then in ninth grade, a student at Neve Shmuel High School in Efrat, and was looking for a chance to volunteer. From there, the path to the "Shalva" organization, which aims to treat and integrate children with disabilities into society, was short lived. "I would come there three hours a week. I was a son of Benyahu, who was 7 at the time, and we slowly connected."
"In our third year, our acquaintance became much deeper. I started coming home to him on Saturdays. We would go to Maccabi Tel Aviv's basketball games and run five miles together every year in the Jerusalem Marathon. He stopped every 100 meters," laughs Sherlo. "I am the youngest of seven siblings in the family. I have no younger siblings, so maybe Benyahu has some pizza for it."
Her sons graduated from high school in 2014, moved to the Arrangement from Hanim and from there to prepare for Ein Perth, and in March 2016 joined the Armored Brigade's 188th Division. In August 2017, he completed the officer course.
His son, who attended elementary school incorporating "Rishit" in Gush Etzion, continued to Nitzanim in Jerusalem. "I am now in the 11th grade and studying reading, arithmetic, sports and more lessons," he said, not too excited and obviously excited. "We have eight children in the classroom and I have a friend, Yael, from the Neve Daniel community."
The relationship between the two was maintained intimately even when her sons were in the army, and despite the distance. "He came to my beret ceremony and the end of a tank and officer commanders course, and I would come straight out to him, even if I had closed 21 or even 42 days in the army. To see him running after me for more than a month in the army is an amazing feeling.
"He calls me 300 times a day," adds her sons. Benihu nods and points to the shirt he is wearing - an officer course finish shirt. "He has an entire wardrobe," laughs her sons. "Every time a runway t-shirt came out, I invited one to me and one to him."
And there was a promise, too: the two post-army hikes will be made together. "I assured him that when I was released, I would take him on a trip abroad, and that became a shared dream. I realized there was no way I was leaving him behind after ten years. I take it with me. "
The trip, her sons discovered, would have to be quick enough for a planner. Upon his release, in March, he joins a unique Washington several-month leadership program called "New Story Leadership," which aims to train young Israeli and Palestinians to work as US congressmen for Alumni, promoting interfaith dialogue between companies and countries around the world.
"It came as a surprise to me, and I realized that I had to make the trip abroad with his sons quickly. As late as August, I called Yael Gross, his son's mother, and told her I was taking him for a walk. Her response was "No way, you won't succeed." I told her to write in a journal, in early November we are abroad and will be what. "
"I was brave." His sons and sons in Greece Photo: Inbal Barco
"The Israelites walked 40 years in the wilderness after Moses and maybe they asked twice, 'How long will we be at the end?'. His son, Gross, 17, meters, and Bamba, asked me 7,000,000 times in the 6 km route 'How long will we reach the end?' I asked 'why do you want to get to the end, don't you enjoy the way?' And he answered me 'I have Down syndrome. I can not go'. I said to him, "If you can't walk, then go ahead and start dropping waterfalls in Rappelling." And so it was "(Her sons' journey log, November 11, 2019. Greece)
Planning the trip was complex and challenging. When it comes to traveling with a teenager with Down syndrome, it is necessary to plan every detail, leaving nothing to chance. Mistakes must not occur.
"We planned everything for details. Insurance, satellite phone, friends' details in Greece in any case. I contacted the ambassador in Athens and even talked to the airline, who will know that a teenager may be coming on the flight because of ear pain."
The destination, Greece, was chosen because it is a country that has many challenges that its sons can overcome. The weather is fickle, and he wanted to be on both sunny and rainy days, the topography of the Thessaloniki region provides a varied itinerary - from high mountains to climbing to waterfalls and rivers that provide a wet experience.
Her sons realized he would need a great deal of help, and the trip also included two quarters (21), a tour guide trained as a pedagogical assistant, and Inbal Barco (21), who was in charge of the trip documentation, both residents of Beit Shemesh. Her sons: "I wanted photographs of the trip, which will leave us a quality souvenir video, and I also wanted his son to understand what he is doing and even guide himself during the trip."
"I knew her sons through Facebook, just in case, when he was looking for a photographer and someone who understands pedagogy," Shani says. "When I realized that it was such a trip, I was really stolen because I had never had contact with anyone with Down syndrome. In fact, I didn't even know what it was, I thought it was just like autism. When I met his sons I was in the market. I discovered a sweet, smart, charming and sensitive child. My journey was mainly astonishment of his sons, of what he does, of the way he responds to situations. "
Inbal agrees: "I went into this journey thinking that I was going to make a movie where I show his son can do whatever he wants. During the trip, I realized it was really wrong, because he was able to do everything regardless of the trip. He did things that people without special needs would rattle with fear To try, and without being confused and without thinking twice. "
A trip of this magnitude costs money, a lot of money, and her sons decided to run a mass financing campaign under the title "UP Syndrome". "I am in the process of being released from the army and on the horizon of the great trip," he told the surfers. "I promised myself that before I flew to enrich and empower myself, I would not leave his sons behind and take him for an empowering and unique experience as well. He also deserves the opportunity to meet himself, face his own challenges and test the limits of his ability."
The target set by her sons was NIS 17,000, which he reached on November 3, 2019 - just seven days before the planned departure. While raising funds, Sherlo began working on the documentary, which he promised to the donors he would make during the trip, and his sons' preparations for seven days in Greece, for the first time without his parents.
"We have never been abroad, and the truth is that we had no idea why we were coming in," says Yael, Benihu's mother. "Obviously we had concerns," adds his father Jacob. "What will happen if he gets sick? Will we have to get to Greece in some way? On the other hand, we rely on her eyes closed. "
In one of the scenes in the documentary, the two are seen visiting a traveling shop, where they were given an explanation of building a tent and cooking on the ground. "We're going to climb the mountains and be in the streams, will you succeed alone?" Asks her sons his sons. "I'll succeed with you," Benihu replies with a smile. Everything is ready, you can get started.
"He also deserves the opportunity to meet himself, face his own challenges and test the limits of his ability" Photo: Inbal Berko
"Enter the terminal, and Hope - there's no construction. Looking right, looking left, looking up, looking down, and then I see him hiding from me. I ask him 'Benihu, why are you troubling me on the first day?' And he says to me, "I'm not in trouble. I'm in big trouble." But as he sat down on the plane, looked at the clouds and then at me, and said, "Thank you for taking me here, I like to see that I'm tall," it was all worth it. " Sherlo, November 10, 2019. Greece)
On November 10, 2019, with large bags on the back, her sons and sons arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport. "He is not naughty," says her sons. "He got on the conveyor belt, pressed buttons, locked the money exchange clerk in his cell, and brought him half the security personnel in the field. Anything he could touch - he touched. He wanted to do everything himself. We're used to these things, but For him it was the first time.
"I was very scared at first and wanted him to stay next to me. Then I realized that he was brave and curious, and that he was doing things I would never be brave enough to try. I told myself, Hales, I let him go, and then I discovered a whole world of crap that can be done at the airport. .
"He also wanted to check everything on the plane. He asked what happens when the water is lowered in the toilet, what happens if there is a hole in the window, everything is of interest to him. The pilots cooperated with us and brought him to visit the cockpit."
Did you make him early preparations?
"We made him a booklet drawing what to do each day, we explained to him where Greece and what language is spoken, but he obviously had concerns. On the plane, for example, he told me he wanted to go home, that he was afraid the plane would crash. He was the only person on the flight who listened to the flight attendant Who explained what happens if there is a fire. "
After the take-off, a number of her sons, deeper questions were raised for his son. "He asked me, for example, if a grandfather was in the clouds. When his grandfather passed away they were told he was in heaven, and suddenly he made the link. It led us to a conversation about what happens to a man when he dies.
"He has a ton of questions that no one has ever answered. I explained, for example, that we don't fly straight and that the earth is round. Suddenly the whole cosmos opened up to him, every question a child ever asked himself. It was challenging, like explaining things to a child In first grade. Everything has to be very clear. "
Even then, her sons say, he gained insights into his attitude towards people with disabilities and the independence that they are often denied. "I thought to myself, maybe the schools are suppressing his curiosity, because if he does something that isn't exactly right, they immediately tell him to stop. Another kid can be curious, and he doesn't. I decided I would look at him as a curious kid, and when he touched on all kinds of things I asked him If it interests him and I explained to him about them. "
About two hours later, the two landed in Thessaloniki and drove to the rented apartment. There, her sons gave his sons two notebooks, in which each evening they summarize the experiences they went through. “I made us travel diaries and asked his sons to write every day what he went through and what his experiences were.
"The first day I was exhausted, Beniou was stubborn, from the smallest things to the big things. But then I realized a great lesson about life - the one who dares to reveal amazing things. To be locked forever in his glass cell. "
His son in a tent, writes a travel diary Photo: Inbal Barco
"I had fun in the waterfalls. At first I was scared and then I managed everything on my own. I slid into the water. It was cold, but I like to slip into water. I splashed water on Inbal and two and pushed her sons into water. The hard and the high. I managed everything "(Benihu Gross's Journey Diary, November 11, 2019. Greece)
The second day of the trip was extremely extreme. On the menu: abseiling and jumping into the water, and sleeping on the ground - all with quite a few underwriters.
Sons: "We went out to Snapling, and when we got to the top of the waterfall, the instructor spoke English quickly. Sons did not understand him, and I did not have time to explain how to make the jump.
But designing for one and reality for one. "We went down at the first waterfall and his sons did not move. The instructor told him to release, I shouted 'Release' from above, but he was so under pressure that he just froze instead.
"I gave up the official instructions and told him, let go of the English. When you feel the tight rope will start to release, and he understood. He just trusted himself." A little courage and faith, and his sons successfully managed the first challenge of the trip.
Second: "In fact, Benihu has shown that he is capable of doing things himself on the best side. I, for example, was really scared of the falls, and Benihu yelled at me from the bottom, 'Come on, you can.' He dropped it like it was a slide. It was really cool." .
"A moment before rappelling, I told myself I might have gone one step too far, and maybe it was better to take a walk," her sons add. "But in the end I decided that if I brought him up to this point, I would go all over the jackpot. That was true. The rappelling released him, brought him to rely on himself.
"I came out with a very important insight from this day. Those who define disabled people as such are society and not themselves. Until a few generations ago, everyone in need of glasses was considered disabled, and until someone invented the hearing aid was also considered to be hearing impaired. He didn't understand the guide who spoke English, but once I let him rely on himself - he was able to do whatever he wanted. "
The evening went down and the two were preparing for an overnight stay in the area, but even there they were expecting surprises. "His son insisted on building the tent himself, and was unsuccessful. We slept with four broken poles and an upside down tent. In addition, the trim didn't work either.
"His sons were hungry and exhausted and had difficulty coping with the difficulties. I told him it was part of the trip, that you could go to bed hungry or find a creative solution. His suggestion was to eat all the snacks we brought. So we went into the tent, put some music and ate everything."
Her sons and sons cuddled in a tent and opened the most burning issue on the agenda of any average 17 year old, with or without Down Syndrome.
"The experiences I remember from traveling with friends are the conversations at night, and for me it was part of the story this time as well. I asked him if he had a girlfriend, who he loved at school and who he was looking at, and I found myself having a conversation with boys and girls. Talking to him about them at first, but then I realized that was what kept him engaged and that became a conversation between two men. If until the trip I looked at him as a child or as a person to be inaugurated, on the trip he became equal to me. I was cold too, I was hard at rapping, too It's hard for me on the ground, and we're both talking about girls.
"He gets up at five in the morning and gives us Omar Adam at Paul Volium. I thought about it - boys with Down syndrome are the ones who look at us as weird. We have a good breakfast, and his son is a sandwich engineer - omelet, tuna, chocolate and cake together. : Why not eat everything at once? " (The Construction Diary of Construction Charlo, November 12, 2019. Greece)
On the third day, the two awoke to heavy rain, but did not intend to give up. With raincoats and warm hats, they set off, heading for the water's back in the area known as "Gabi Rugbo", in northern Greece.
"We came to the back, and suddenly Benyahu says to me, 'No table - no promenade.' He forced me to undress, and we both jumped into the water. It was frozen but he asked 'again', so we found ourselves jumping in turns for the frozen water. Good preparation for him for the army." , Laughs her sons.
"During the day, we had significant conversations again, about courage, love, what he wants to do in life. I asked him where he finds himself more, in a class or in nature class. It's easiest to put him in class with papers and not let him flourish.
"I wanted to get him out of the frame, prove that he has unmatched abilities in the classroom and expose him to other audiences. He was not measured by grades, but by creativity and courtesy. I once read that 80 percent of parents don't want their children to learn with children with disabilities. Learning empathy, attitude and inclusion? From meeting boys like their sons. "
Indeed, the harsh reality did not skip his sons in Greece as well, when he contacted a local boy who was frightened by it. "I was hurt, he didn't talk to me," Benihu says.
Her sons: "When I saw the situation created, I decided to teach his son how to explain to others what Down Syndrome is. For example, boys with the syndrome have many cool things like very long tongue and impressive flexibility. I sent it to explain it to a child we met on the street. I explained to her that we were from Israel, and that his son wanted to explain to them what Down Syndrome was. The mother flew over it and the boy loved his sons. It was cool. "
"I had fun climbing the high mountain. It was high and hard but I manage to climb the best of all, and I was first, and I ran to the high mountain, and it wasn't difficult. I managed to climb first and took all of them climbing. And I was the guide for her sons, Inbal and the second In Track "(Benihu Gross's Journey Diary, November 13, 2019. Greece)
The last day of the trip had arrived, and his son, who had begun the trip with so many concerns, now refused to return home. "He started the day depressed because he realized we were returning to Israel. He would not move or do anything, just stay in Greece, and squeeze me a promise that I will take him again, before he enlisted in the IDF, to see Messi in Barcelona."
After the tough negotiations, the two went on a tour of the Meteor - a cluster of Orthodox Christian monasteries in central Greece, built in the Middle Ages on some 60 steep rock pillars.
Construction: "On the fifth day of construction, he was responsible for the trip. He photographed us and prepared the training. It was a difficult day. We climbed 800 steps to the highest monastery and he dictated the pace - decided when to stop and when to stop. "They always find themselves as apprentices, the ones that someone has to take responsibility for. I realized the best way to make them believe in themselves is to let them do it themselves."
Sons, what would you like to know you learned on the trip?
"I've been dealing. I'm capable of everything."
"Not all human beings are equal. There are those who have more and there are less, and the world as a practice, gets more who has something to give. How many of you do not experience a true hug? How many of you do not hear the words once in the morning and once in the evening" I love you? ”How many of you would you give to get a bone-breaking hug, and all you did was make him the chocolate he loves?
"If you are ahead of your big trip to life, before school, before embarking on your life - take a boy or girl who you have educated over the years to sing along with you. Because the balloon you give this child will change. All a child needs is one adult to believe in" (Diary The journey of her sons Charlo, after all)
"If you want, everything will be possible. Anything you want - learn, and wherever you want - come." Meeting with President Rivlin Photo: Mark Naiman / GPO
Two months have passed since her sons and sons returned from the trip. Mentor and camper, friends, who went on an exciting trip together after an army. During Chanukah, they were also invited to a meeting with President Reuben (Ruby) Rivlin, after it was revealed to be a short television article about the two.
"Beniou did not sleep three days before the meeting," Benia told the president, who replied that he was equally excited about the meeting. "I wanted to fly the plane myself," Benyahu said, and Rivlin replied: "You will fly another plane. If you want, everything will be possible. Anything you want - learn, and wherever you want - you will come."
Now the two are heading for new struggles, on the way to their sons' integration into Israeli society. The first goal, says her sons, is the recruitment of his sons to the IDF in a significant role.
"I want to be a soldier, to repair tanks," says Benihu, interested in following his mentor. "It's possible," her sons say optimistically. "He is of a high cognitive level. Guys like him are letting go of pennies and arranging cabinets, but he can contribute a lot more. He can work as a tank technician.
"Everyone talks about integration, but it's like living in Tel Aviv and talking about Judea and Samaria. The people who talk about integration don't talk to kids like that. Whenever they say the word 'integration,' it pinches my heart. I don't want to incorporate it into a life where it will stay Behind children his age. But he can create a parallel path to life. He will finish school like everyone else, and then he can do a year of service and enlist. Then he can fly abroad, just like any other young man. "
"After his son's trip, he discovered that he was no longer the little boy they had sent abroad," Shani adds. "He has gained independence, and they need to get to know him anew. Society, for its part, has to learn to look at these children differently. People with Down Syndrome can do anything, and we're the ones pushing them aside. Although this journey was made in "Zoom In" on the story of her sons and sons, it is a mirror image for everyone. "
"This journey proves how much a volunteer bond can affect the life of a child with special needs, how much it can help parents, and how strong a bond can give to family and child," Inbal adds. "This journey shows those who stand with prejudice that children with special needs are able to do everything."
Currently, her sons are in the process of setting up a nonprofit called "Start-up for you," which aims to help entrepreneurs promote individual social initiatives. "Beit Midrash for Entrepreneurship," he calls it. "I proved on a trip that the big nonprofits do not necessarily need to set up such ventures.
"Right now I'm helping my ex-soldier on a trip for Israel with a boy who has difficulties in adapting, which the army doesn't want to recruit. These kids sit in lectures in front of the commanders, but that doesn't speak to them at all. For Israel, you understand them better. The difficulty of dealing in the field brings the two together in a direct way. "
And his sons? He returned to school and received a lot of attention following his special outing. In the future, he plans to work with animals. But his parents also admit the company is not doing enough to help people with disabilities integrate into the company.
Are you worried about his future?
"Yes," Jacob replies. "I think the company treats people with special needs as having low abilities, so from the beginning, the work they will receive will not be at their level. The company is not ready to challenge itself."
"There is no doubt that his sons are sometimes frustrated," adds Yael. "When he was little he was like everyone else, but over the years the gaps were discovered. When he was in middle school, his teacher told us that our son is transparent. That the kids in the class don't count him at all. It pinches watching the other kids in the advanced community, going to the movies and finding friends, while His sons are a little behind. This combination is not just rituals and events, but a way of life - just like the connection between his sons and her sons. " √