Fifteen years ago, a small ad in a metro New York Jewish weekly newspaper led to the founding of a now worldwide event in support of disabled Israel Defense Forces veterans. That advertisement was for the inaugural bicycle ride for a little-known group, The Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, known to many as Beit Halochem.
The Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO) was established in 1949 in the wake of the War of Independence. ZDVO’s purpose was to provide the 6,000 disabled IDF veterans from that war with everything they needed to succeed in the long process of rehabilitation. Sadly, since that time thousands of new members, disabled during their active or reserve duty or in terror attacks, have increased that number to more than 51,000. Currently ZDVO is the sole and official advocate and representative of disabled IDF veterans to the Israeli government. Their Chairman, Edan Kleiman, has been chosen as a torch bearer at the upcoming Independence Day Ceremony on Mt. Herzl, to mark Israel’s 74th Anniversary.
In 1974 the first Beit Halochem rehabilitation center opened in Tel Aviv after the Yom Kippur War. Currently, a total of five Beit Halochem centers provid therapeutic treatments, sports facilities, cultural and educational programs, scholarship support, and family-oriented activities to help disabled veterans resume lives of purpose and dignity. Beit Halochem is committed to caring for IDF disabled veterans who refer to Beit Halochem as their second home.
In 2008, Isaac Seinuk, looking to do a multi-day bike ride in Israel, saw a small ad, and discovered an organization that no one seemed to know much about. After riding in Israel with some of the actual disabled veterans that he had raised funds for, he knew he had to do more. In 2010 he established the Five Towns 5K Run/Walk in support of disabled IDF veterans. With the help of Beit Halochem USA/Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans and the support of Shalom Maidenbaum, the annual event is now in its13th year and has become the Beit Halochem International 5Towns 5K Run/Walk by offering a virtual component. Anyone who wishes to lend their support to disabled IDF veterans, from anywhere in the world, can take part in this uplifting activity as a way of thanking the heroic veterans for their service. In the last two years over a hundred disabled IDF veterans participated from Israel. Beit Halochem virtual athletes joined in by walking, running, or pursuing other sports challenges, including adapted cycling, archery, table tennis, and swimming.
The Run/Walk has a dual goal of raising funds for these IDF heroes and creating awareness of this extremely important organization.
This year the live Beit Halochem International 5towns 5K Run Walk takes place on Sunday, May 15. The virtual event continues through May 28, giving participants from across the globe additional time to complete their run or walk. Even a participant who cannot complete a full five-kilometer circuit can participate and have a t-shirt mailed to them.
To register, visit www.5towns5k.org.
To learn more about Beit Halochem visit www.fidv.org and www.zdvo.org.