The Story of a Brave Soldier, Jackie Behar

Jackie Behar was blinded in a military operation. His story was never told, so to commemorate his sacrifice and learn about his life following his injury, we spoke to Jackie’s close friend, Renee Nir.
Amos, a happy guide dog at the Israel Guide Dog Center; Photo Credit: Noam Michaeli

Throughout my life, I have been exposed to a variety of organizations and individuals who are triumphing despite their physical and mental handicaps. On a high school trip, I visited the Israel Guide Dog Center for the blind. In addition to an in-depth tour of the center, we participated in an interactive workout to get a taste of how a blind person uses a seeing eye dog.

Deeply inspired by this experience, I further explored resources for handicapped individuals in Israel, and was surprised to learn of the array of organizations in Israel that comfort and integrate such individuals. Naturally, I wanted to learn somebody’s personal story and how Israel played a direct role in improving that person’s life, so I connected with Renee Nir, a close friend of Jackie Behar, who graciously shared his story with me.

Renee, currently residing in New York, met Jackie while he was in the hospital recovering from his injuries, and remained friends ever since.

“Jackie may have left the army, ‘but the army was still with him,’ says Renee. He was granted medals of honor, and all of his medical bills and services were free of charge. Jackie was supported very well. His country, Israel, did not yet have a seeing-eye dog program. However, Israel generously underwrote a trip to the U.S. so Jackie could get a guide dog to bring home to Israel. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) paid for all expenses and accommodations, including hotels, an aide to assist with travel, and other travel expenses for Jackie and his entire family They also provided a car for his wife to drive Jackie and his dog. After his dog passed away, the Israeli army sent Jackie back to the United States to be matched with another dog.

“The dog was always with him, always,” explains Renee. His service dog was invaluable to his success in Israel; his dog helped him ride buses, go to work, and travel the country. Renee described how Jackie showed her all around Tel Aviv; “even though he was blind, he knew every street corner, and he was showing me around.” Renee also shared that Jackie and his wife traveled all across Europe and the United States.

Jackie learned to live with his disability, and didn’t let it prevent him from pursuing happiness. With the help of the IDF, and his service dogs, he raised a family, commuted to work, traveled the world, and made new friends. His story should serve as a reminder to us all, that even in the face of life-altering challenges, life goes on.

Today, there are many wounded veterans and other disabled Israelis in need of the same kind of support and care that Jackie received. One outstanding organization that fills this need is the Israel Guide Dog Center, which provides guide dogs specially trained in Hebrew to all legally blind Israeli citizens. Israel is a pioneer in advancements and inclusion for people with handicaps, including units in the army dedicated to supporting soldiers with special needs (Special in Uniform), a first-of-its kind organization for Alzheimer’s Guide Dogs, workshops to give sighted children a glimpse into life as blind person (Seeing Differently) and special accessibility initiatives in parks and sites around the country. It really is a miracle to witness the life-affirming initiatives coming out of Israel.

Watch this video from ISRAEL21c to learn more about the amazing work that Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind does:

Groundbreaking Israel content is developed by ISRAEL21c’s Digital Ambassadors.

Amanda Cetina is a junior at Binghamton University, double majoring in PPL (Politics Philosophy and Law) and Hebrew.

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