The blind Israelis, tethered to the rabbis, are running to honor the miracle of their country's survival and the miracle of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind-which brings hope, mobility, and independence to thousands of blind Israelis.
The Run-traversing Central Park and representing a symbolic four-mile journey across Israel-starts at 8 AM. Beginning just south of East 68th Street, the Run zigzags past statues of a crouching panther and a bronze memorial of Fred Lebow, founder of the NYC Marathon, as it goes up to 102nd Street, past three rolling hills, before winding back down the 72nd Street Transverse-where cheering crowds wait.
Dany Layani and Dror Carmeli, the blind Israelis who are marching and running, will literally be tied at the hip to Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, head of the New York Board of Rabbis and spiritual leader of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, and Rabbi Maurice Salth of Central Synagogue. Accompanying them will be Noach Braun, Co-Founder and Director of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind-providing guide dogs and miracles for Israel's blind.
Dany knows about miracles firsthand-though they didn't appear that way to him at first. The first miracle happened when Dany-20 years old-was hunkered in a trench during the first Lebanon War. A bomb exploded taking his vision but sparing his life. Ten fellow soldiers were not so lucky that day. The second occurred when, after 25 years of blindness, surgery enabled Dany to see his wife and children for the very first time-only to have his sight vanish after a few months. The third miracle took place when Dany met Noach, who later would give Dany the opportunity to transform his life with the help of guide dogs supplied by Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.
Dror knows something about miracles, too. He lives in Ashdod-a city that's a regular target of terrorist shelling-giving Dror's dog, Lyn, the additional and critical task of leading him to safety. Yet he's never let his visual impairment slow him down one iota. An accomplished tri-athlete, Dror was a computer specialist in the Israeli Air Force, married his sweetheart, and has four children.
The idea of participating in the four-mile Celebrate Israel Run appeals to Dany, Dror, and Noach as a way to generate attention and support for Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind-the only accredited guide dog center in the Middle East. The Center hopes to raise $100,000 so that more blind Israelis-who have been waiting for a year or more-can receive a guide dog.
Dany routinely runs in between his job as a social worker for the Organization for Disabled Veterans, raising four children-three girls and a boy ranging in age from 16 to 25-playing sports, especially skiing and tandem biking, reading countless books, and traveling extensively for business and pleasure. When asked how he manages to squeeze it all in, he simply replies: "When things are important, you make time for them."
For the past three years, Dany's constant guide and companion has been Norman, his present guide dog-journeying to Canada where he was a featured speaker, celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife in Budapest, and later this year heading a delegation of blind soldiers at a conference in Geneva.
Running has always been central to the Israel Guide Dog Center's Director, Noach Braun. "I run for pleasure," Noach explains. "It helps clear my head and manage stress. It was only natural I take this great opportunity to combine an activity that I really love with a cause I really believe in."
Both Dany and Dror are fiercely devoted to their guide dogs. For Dany, "Norman is a hamud (sweetie). When I release him from his harness, he always comes back when I call him." For Dror, an extremely competitive individual, "Lyn is a great addition to the family. Friendly, playful and very smart...I know we're going to be great partners!" For both Israelis, their guide dogs make a wonderful team: They are always going places. Their dogs, always at their sides, show them the way.
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Amit Bar-El was a soldier fighting house-to-house during the 2006 Lebanon War. As he rushed to the aid of a wounded comrade, Amit opened a door only to have a rocket fly past and explode in the wall next to him. He received multiple shrapnel wounds
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