Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Malki Foundation

One of the greatest nightmares a parent faces is the loss of a child. We, in the special needs community, are constantly confronted by the specter of the Angel of Death, either for our own children or the children of friends. But one thing we do not generally deal with is the fact that our children could be taken by senseless violence.

Yes, there are some in the US that have children who have gone off to war in Iraq or Afghanistan. The constant sacrifice of the families of our service personnel is under reported in the news media and under appreciated by the American population as a whole.

There are places in the United States, inner-cities where it is not safe to walk or for a child to play outside due to gang violence. But that does not touch the overwhelming majority of our communities. The reality that these families live with, is not understood not recognized and never really reported. Furthermore, the violence spreading from Mexico north into these same communities is dismissed and disregarded by the nation as a whole.

We in New York City and Washington DC are painfully aware of the violence of terrorism. As I have mentioned before, there were hours on 9/11 that we did not know if my husband nor my sister were alive or dead. But it does not surround us. Terrorism does not pervade our very lives. There have been numerous incidents of violence, terror and murder in this country since that autumn day ten years ago, but we do not really live in fear of another terrorist attack and it is not a part of our day to day existence.

I always wonder what we would do if faced with the reality that our children would die a violent death. How would we react? What we do with the rest of our live? How would we honor our children?

What is it that causes some to hate so much to think that they have the right to slaughter other human beings? They take no responsibility for their own lives and choices. They dehumanize and disregard their victims as if they were garbage to get out of the way. They take pleasure in the evil that they bring. They think they have a right to slaughter with impunity. It is a sad testament to the world, that no international organization can agree on the definition of terrorism.

No one can answer for the whole world. No one can answer for what someone else does. All we can do is live a good life. One dedicated to righting wrongs, bringing peace and understanding.

Now what does all this have to do with autism and special needs...let me tell you.

Ten years ago, a young 15 year old girl went to the local Sbarro's restaurant near her home in Jerusalem, Israel. Unbeknownst to her and her family, a group of terrorists had decided to target that particular pizza parlor. The ensuing bomb murdered 15 people (mostly children), including this 15 year old girl, and wounded over 150. One of the terrorists, a woman, when finally apprehended and told how many children she had killed was overjoyed. In her own words she did not think she had been all that successful. That woman is being released, along with 1026 others, in an exchange next week, for the illegally kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The story of this 15 year old is one of goodness and hope. Her greatest wish was to help those with special needs.  In honor of her memory, her parents, began The Malki Foundation.  

The Malki Foundation, a non-political, non-sectarian, not-for-profit organization honors the tragically short life of a girl dedicated to bringing happiness and support into the lives of special-needs children

Here is a copy of its mission statement:

THE MISSION of Keren Malki is to enable the families of special-needs children in Israel to choose home care. We are an Israel-based, non-political voluntary not-for-profit organization providing support and help without any regard for the religious or national background of the family. Keren Malki is focused on empowerment, allowing families from every segment of Israeli society to provide quality home-care for their special-needs child the way they believe it ought to be provided. The organization provides longterm therapy at home, access to equipment and mobile therapy units.

The highlight is mine. Notice that the organization helps all that need help irregardless of who they are, their religion or their ethnic background. The only stipulation is that they have a special needs child.

Several months before Malki was killed, an accomplished flautist,  she wrote this song. Before you listen note that the song is written in Hebrew, I include the translation below. It is an upbeat song filled with hope and joy. Her parents have tried to honor her memory and build the world that Malki had wanted to help create.

Each of us has place in the World to Come.
And that is already a reason to be happy.
We each have a spark and a start.
And this is reason enough to be happy.

You live breath move.
That's a good start.

Each of us has a way of arriving.
We all have a way back too.
We each have hope and a future.
And a place in the World to Come.

Each of us has so many reasons.
So you better start dancing now.
We each already have a reason to laugh.
So lets all shout together.

I ask you what would you do if faced with such a nightmare? Would you start a foundation that could end up help the offspring of those that may support your child's murder? That is what the Roth family did. It is what they continue to do. They do it for Malki and for the forgotten victims of terror. They do it because helping those with special needs, no matter who they happen to be, is the right thing to do.

Here is Malki's mother's feelings in her own words upon he daughter's murder. HERE is Malki's mother's words upon hearing of the impending release of her daughter's murderer. This murderer was no simple driver; she planned, transported the bomb and executed this terrorist attack.

It is so easy for us, to say what we would do or how we would feel under these circumstances. But noone ever knows how they would react.  We would hope beyond hope that we would remain good people. We would hope beyond hope that we would not become bitter. We would hope beyond hope that our values would not be corrupted. For if we loose our own humanity that is when the terrorists win. Yet I am not sure I am really that good of a person myself. In fact I know that I am not.

Until next time,


h/t A Soldier's Mother for some links