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December 18, 2015     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 18, 2015

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 18, 2015 PAGE 11A By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--Sitting in front of a computer at the center of Israel's largest army base, a soldier stares at the screen, moving pixel by pixel over a satellite photograph, picking out details and find- ing patterns. A few years ago N.S., who has autism, thought the Is- rael Defense Forces wouldn't take him. N.S., who like other soldiers could not give his name due to IDF proto- col, spent his childhood in mainstream classroom set- tings, where he had focused on studying film and Arabic, but expected to miss out on being drafted--a mandatory rite of passage for most Israeli 18 -year-olds. Now, more than a year into his army service, N.S. is a colonel who spends eight hours a day doing what few other soldiers can: using his exceptional attention to detail and intense focus to analyze visual data ahead of missions. Soldiers with autism can excel at this work because they are often adept at detecting patterns and maintaining focus for long periods of time. "It gave me the opportu- nity to go into the army in a significant position where I feel that I'm contributing," he said. "I'm really swamped. I'm a perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect." N.S. is among some 50 soldiers and trainees in Roim Rachok, Hebrew for Seeing Far, a program aimed at drafting the one in 100 Israeli children diagnosed with au- tism, according to statistics from the Israeli Society for Autistic Chidren. Based in the IDF's Intelligence Unit 9900, which maps and analyzes vi- sual data, the soldiers of Roim Rachok decipher aerial recon- naissance photos to provide information to soldiers ahead of combat missions. Other tracks train candidates to be army electricians, who deal with devices like night vision goggles, or optics technicians, who work with binoculars. "There's an agenda to show people on the spectrum have abilities and can do things," said T.V., a former Defense Ministry official who co- founded Roim Rachok in 2012. "A big part [of the work] is to notice changes and a certain routine repetition." Autism diagnoses are rising in Israel. According to the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, about 10 times more Israeli children have autism as do adults. In the past, T.V. said, these children at 18 would enter the IDF and be given menial, frustrating jobs. Participants in Roim Ra- chok attend a three-month course at the Ono Academic College near Tel Aviv, where they receive training for their army service and an introduction to army life. Along with photo analysis or optics, trainees learn about following orders, staying on schedule and working with a team. Revital is the mother of a Roim Rachok soldier who is an American Civil War buff. "He's a kid with really extraordinary intelligence and abilities, but social un- derstanding and obeying social rules have always been harder," she said. "He's come a long way. This fits him like a glove." After three additional months of training on base, participants are drafted and placed within Unit 9900-- sometimes as the only soldier on the team with autism. Before they arrive, their fel- low soldiers and commanders receive training on working with people with autism, and every team meets weekly with a counselor to discuss the group dynamic. N.C., another soldier with autism, said he goes out to eat regularly with his fellow soldiers. D., a second lieuten- ant who commands another Roim Rachok soldier, said her team usuallyworks smoothly. But when D. first replaced the team's previous commander, the change challenged that soldier and caused his work to decline. "He was very close to his previous commander," D. said. "It was very hard for him, so he regressed. I had stressed him out, so he was less concentrated, not sure who to take commands from." After their discharge, Roim Rachok soldiers will face new challenges in finding jobs that suit their abilities. But army service will have given soldiers with autism experi- ence in overcoming obstacles like coping with a changing environment or strategizing to complete a complex as- signment. "The soft skills people learn in their service are no less important than the profes- sion itself," said Benjamin Hazmi, academic director at Belt Issie Shapiro, an Israeli disability activism organiza- tion. "The army is people's first encounter with authority, with a schedule." N.S., the soldier from Roim Rachok, says he wants to be a Rabbi A soldier in Roim Rachok, Hebrew for Seeing Far, an Israeli army program aimed at drafting people with autism. film editor after the army. In the meantime, he said he feels privileged to be a part of what most Israelis his age consider an obligation. "The day I enlisted, I got very excited," N.S. said. "I was really like, I'm an inseparable part of Israeli society." (Israel Hayom/Exclusive to The Middle East has gone through monumental changes over thousands of years, but one thing has never changed: an affinity for hummus. This conclusion was reached after fava seeds were discovered during an excava- tion by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Galilee, showing that prehistoric man living in the southern Near East some 10,000 years ago preferred a diet consisting of legumes. The joint IAA- Weizmann Institute research project, which examined fava seeds unearthed in recent years at archaeological sites from the Neolithic period in the Galilee, sheds light on the eating habits of the prehis- toric man living in the area. According to archaeolo- gists, advanced technologi- cal methods were used to determine the exact age of the fava beans, which led to the conclusion that they had found the world's oldest domesticated fava seeds. The seeds, researchers say, teach us that the diet of the indig- enous people at the time was comprised primarily of fava beans, chickpeas used to make hummus, lentils, and other types of peas. According to the IAA, "The multitude of fava seeds found at the Neolithic sites excavated in the Galilee during the past few years indicates the prefer- ence placed on growing fava beans. The dating of the seeds, which was done at the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Sci- ence in the Weizmann Insti- tute, indicated a range of dates between 9,890 and 10,160 YBP (years before present). These well-preserved seeds were found in excavations, inside storage pits [granaries] after they had been husked." PRIVATE ANNUITY-EARN 8 % Income $10331/yr no expenses or maintenance Increases every 5 years Secured by property in Pompano Beach Price $129,000 Contact: Byron 603 828-4130 or j azzvermont @ (Back row, l-r) Gloria Green, Jewish Pavilion program director; Mark Stone; Joel Ruben. (Front row, l-r) Eve Homburger, Lillian Feldman, Susie Stone, Rabbi Adler, and Paula Ruben. Friends of Ohev Shalom's Rabbi Emeritus Rudolph Adler made the trip down to Dr. Phillips on Wednesday, Dec, 10, for a Chanukah party at the Sutton Home facility where he is in residence. Friends Susie and Mark Stone, Joel and Paula Rubin, and Eve Homburger joined Rabbi Adler along with resi- dent Lillian Feldman and her visiting son, Alan Feldman to enjoy latkes made by Susie Stone. Rabbi Adler also enjoyed the homemade chocolates brought by both Susie Stone and Paula Ruben. Jewish Pavilion Program Director Gloria Green en- tertained on the piano with Chanukah and Broadway tunes and JP volunteer Jackie Benfeld and Sutton staff made sure all went smoothly. The Jewish Pavilion is a "mo- bile" community center that brings holidays and program- ming right to the resident's door at over 50 Central Florida facilities for seniors in long-term care/assisted living/rehabilita- tion, with the help of its 350 volunteers and its small staff. For more information, to contribute, or volunteer for The Jewish Pa- vilion, visit www.jewishpavilion. org or call 407-678-9363.