This year, the President's residence will host its annual Independence Day celebration, at which it awards merit certificates to 120 soldiers from the spectrum of the army's branches, recommended for the award by their commanders, in recognition of their meaningful service and exceptional contributions. Among the honored servicemen and women this year are Corporal Yuval Shitrit and Dekel Eitan, graduates of the high school at WIZO Nahalal Youth Village.
Yuval, a 21-year-old from the northern town of Tamrat in the Jezreel Valley, has an especially inspiring life story. Soon after being born she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. She went to "normal" primary school and continued on to attend high school at WIZO Nahalal. Despite the difficulties inherent in her medical condition, she completed her studies, participated in the traditional high school trip to Poland and even emceed her grade's high school graduation ceremony. Her medical condition naturally exempts her from military service, but she decided to voluntarily join the Israel Air Force. "I work as a contact person between male and female pilots," Yuval recently told YNet News. "Two months ago, the squadron's deputy commander called me and informed me that I was chosen to be one of the president's outstanding soldiers. It was a surprise. I'm a perfectionist but never in my life did I imagine that I'd receive a presidential merit certificate. I feel like the sky is the limit."
Dekel is a basketball player whose talent was already recognized when she arrived at WIZO Nahalal. In the 11th grade she was chosen to join Israel's national women's youth basketball team and traveled to international tournaments. When it came time for her enlistment in the IDF, unlike other exceptional sportspeople, Dekel didn't hesitate and committed to full service in the artillery brigade, without any special considerations.
David Harosh, Director of WIZO Nahalal Youth Village, proudly recalls, "Yuval is a symbol and example of determination. Her presence was inspiring for everyone who came in contact with her. Yuval was a part of all the educational and social aspects of life at the youth village and is remembered for her excellence, humility, maturity and willpower. Dekel was a quiet, humble young woman who always knew what she wanted. She spared no effort to be both an outstanding student and basketball player; she struggled and never gave up. I congratulate Yuval and Dekel, their families and all of the staff who guided them. These young women should make all of Israel as proud as they make me and everyone at WIZO Nahalal."