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article imageIsrael's special journalists meet Gilad Shalit two years later

By Dawn Denmar     Aug 28, 2013 in World
Efrat and Matanel, Israel's popular special needs' journalists finally achieved one of their ambitions today (Aug. 28). They interviewed Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas, after their previously tireless campaigns for his release.
Matanel and Efrat campaigned regularly for Shalit's release and now, almost two years after Hamas let him go, they finally managed to him. Shalit told the journalists that he was: "hoping things would change in our country, and unfortunately upon my return, I did not see much change,” He added: "We need to keep unity among the people; we need to keep what makes us one, what unifies us as a people.”
The two disabled journalists have achieved yet another of their ambitions and this has all been due to the work of SHALVA, the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel. SHALVA works hard to combat enduring prejudice against people with disabilities.
One of the long-term methods of bringing disability to the public eye adopted by SHALVA was the journalistic training of Efrat and Matanel. Efrat is aged 29 and has Down Syndrome while Matanel is 23 years old and has developmental difficulties. Ynet, "the largest Israeli Hebrew news service" agreed to make Efrat and Matanel certified journalists and allow them to interview leading personalities and post the interview clips on the front page. The first interview the special journalists conducted was with Israeli President, Shimon Peres, on December 3, 2009.
The sincerity with which Efrat and Matanel approach their interviews and their personal charisma have made them popular characters in Israel and they are certainly challenging the common perceptions of disability held by most people.
The special journalists have another ambition, to interview the President of the United States. Although the pair did not achieve this dream when President Obama visited Israel in March this year, the US Ambassador, Dan Shapiro invited them to the National Convention Center where they were seated close to the President and heard his address to the Israeli people.
It is heartening to learn the story of these two journalists and the generally positive response they have received from the Israeli public. It would be fantastic if more countries adopted such a proactive attitude to disabilities as that shown by SHALVA, Ynet and the Israeli public.
More about special needs journalists, Shalva, Israel August 2013, disability news
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