An emotional candle lighting ceremony in Jerusalem as Yehuda Yitzchak Ha’Yisraeli commemorates the miracle of Chanukah, bringing light into darkness.

The chief rabbis of Israel, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Israeli hero Yehuda Yitzchak Ha’Yisraeli and hundreds of supporters gathered at the Shalva National Center in Jerusalem to welcome a new Torah Scroll to the center’s synagogue.

Yehudah Yizchak Ha’Yisraeli, a soldier in the elite Rimon unit, was critically wounded in an effort to save kidnapped Hadar Goldin OB”M during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. He lay unconscious for two years, surrounded by his parents and family who never stopped believing that he would recover. He miraculously woke up and today is in the midst of an intense rehabilitative process, revealing unbelievable inner strength despite challenging difficulties. Hydrotherapy sessions at the Shalva National Center’s hydrotherapy pool are a significant element of his rehabilitation.

But today he was there to celebrate. And together with friends and supporters and many of Shalva’s children helped to light the candles and assisted the scribe in completing the writing of the scroll. Kalman Samuels, Shalva’s founder, spoke during the lighting ceremony and expressed emotionally how appropriate it is to commemorate the chanukah miracle with Yehudah Yizchak Halevi. “Just as the Maccabees succeeded against all odds so to our Yehudah Yitzchok, the most seriously injured soldier of Tzuk Eitan, continues to defy all odds in fully recuperating from his injuries. Shalva is so proud to be able to help the entire community including our dedicated protectors of the IDF,” he said.

Chief Rabbi David Lau said that Chanukah is a festival of light and every day during the eight days we add light to illuminate the spiritual heroism of the Maccabees who did not seek to further themselves but to illuminate the light in the Temple. So to at Shalva, people like Yehuda Yitzchak, a true Israeli hero and many other good people, Shalva helps and gives them everything to continue with their lives. Let’s take this lesson and seek to bring light to others.

Philanthropists, Lazar Safaniev and Ervin Ilizirov generously donated the Torah and flew in from Moscow for the celebration. All were entertained by wonderful music by the Shalva Band and a festive meal prepared by the Shalva Cafe for the celebrants.

“On this festival of light you have brought light into the lives of Shalva’s children with this wonderful gift,” remarked Kalman Samuels, addressing  the donors and guests at the festivities.

The synagogue at the Shalva National Center is a meeting point for the general public and individuals with disabilities, for prayer and for learning. As a model of religious inclusion, the synagogue is active during the week and weekends. The windows of the synagogue feature beautiful mosaic works donated by Mexican artist Flor Esses.

Shalva, the Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, was founded 27 years ago based on the belief that the responsibility of caring for individuals with disabilities does not belong solely to the families into which they are born. Rather, individuals with disabilities require and deserve support from the broader community and to be included as equal members of society.