My name is Adi Faraj, I am 24, from Holon, and I have cerebral palsy. My romance with Etgarim began in October 2008, when I was 17. I went to an activity in the Winning Combination project – preparing young people with disabilities for significant service in the IDF. This was my first experience of an extreme activity as a disabled girl. I got to know the members of the group, people who became my friends, some of them for life. Our group was accompanied by Gadi Wissman, who is disabled himself as a result of a combat injury in the Second Lebanon War. I get to know an amazing person, outstanding, courteous to others, full of joie de vivre, and sensitive to those around him. I am still in touch with him to this day. Thanks to the Winning Combination project, I was able to volunteer and serve in the IDF, and to go through this complex process, which took 18 months. The staff were amazing, projecting confidence, warmth and support. They encouraged us to be active partners in the process, to dream and not to be afraid.
We learned to be familiar with the military world, to cope with different issues, some of them problematic, such as sleeping away from home, and coping with stress. We had many experiences together, and real challenges in every sense of the word. For example, the survival trek, the Gadna cadet corps, and so on. Eventually, on December 31, 2009 I fulfilled my dream and enlisted in the IDF. I was so happy that after all the difficulties and the efforts, it finally happened! I did it!
My position was not an easy one, and it was very challenging. The beginning was not at all easy. I came up against various difficulties, but fortunately for me, Gadi, the Etgarim instructor, continued to provide support and I overcame the hurdles. I really enjoyed my service, I worked with different people, dealt with Nachal units, academies, secular and religious preparatory colleges, volunteer service years, and
overseas volunteers. During my service I received a certificate of appreciation and a certificate of excellence, which made me feel very proud and happy about the recognition and respect given to me. I was very moved by the fact that I had been through so much to achieve those moments – I had fought, worked hard, put everything into it. And I was able to serve as an example to others, and no less important, to give my parents and family pride and satisfaction. Throughout our service, my friends from Winning Combination at Etgarim stayed in touch with each other and with Gadi. We met once a month to keep up to date and encourage each other during our service. Before the project I was involved in social action and promoting people with disabilities in a more limited way, but this journey has strengthened the “bug”. I have been coming to Etgarim for a number of years now to help where necessary, and to talk about the importance of the project and tell people about it, this is a source of honor and pride for me. I also lecture to different audiences, promoting the rights of people with disabilities.
The Winning Combination project at Etgarim changed me, strengthened me, and is a significant part of my identity today. Etgarim is a home for me!