“My Life, My Struggle” by Momo Nekava
Hello to you. My name is Shlomo (Momo) and I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1954 to a war-torn family struggling to raise 11 children. At the age of 5 months, I was hit by the polio bacteria and was left crippled for the remainder of my life. Back in that era, and in that part of the world, modern medicine was not able to help me. I had been relegated to a life of wheelchairs, crutches, and the label of being defective by society.
To say that it was easy to isolate and feel sorry for myself would be an understatement. Life was not easy for my family and life was certainly not easy for me. Paying for food to keep our family alive in a newly-established country was extremely difficult, let alone pay for my basic necessities as a handicapped child. 2 of my siblings died before reaching their teenage years from mal-nourishment and a lack of medical treatment.
My mother managed to feed us on her meager earnings as a produce supplier at the local market and we pulled together as a family to get by whatever way we could. To this day, I still look to the memory of her for strength.
The will to survive and the will to make something of myself, and my life, is what carried me. Even though I am physically handicapped, I always knew that my heart and my mind are not.
Throughout my life growing up in rural Israel, I befriended many other disabled people and we shared a common disdain for the lack of consideration and accommodation to the disabled in our country and society. In 1998, that disdain culminated into a burning desire in my heart to dedicate my life to impact and revolutionize this situation in Israeli society .
For a full year, I visited dozens of homes of people with disabilities across the country in order to establish a contingency of disabled individuals as dedicated as I to the cause at hand. During that same year, I placed about 500,000 stickers throughout Israel, which read: “Momo Nekava; fighter for the rights of the disabled people and society.” Along with this, I set up a website titled “Disabled Veterans of Israel.” My goal was to let the disabled know that something new was happening in our society and that we must unite as one to address this issue that affected all aspects of our lives.
In 1999, we led our first public demonstration for equal rights. 10,000 disabled demonstraters spent 37 day sleeping in tents outside the kinesset in Jerusalem. On the 37th day, we stormed the office of the treasury and created a media circus, which ultimately culminated in a negotiation with the Israeli government to, finally, grant us the funding and equal rights we demanded.
In 2000, I founded the “Organization of Disabled Veterans of Israel,” which is now home to 1.4 million people with all types of disabilities. Since then, the organization has become the premiere organization for the disabled population in Israel. Over the years we have been able to influence the Israeli government to form a number of new laws for the benefit of disabled people and society.
To date, we now have a magazine concerning social issues for the disabled with a reader base of 50,000+, a radio station broadcasting worldwide and listened to by hundreds of thousands, and I have published my auto-biography, “My Life on Wheels,” which has been read by, and inspires, thousands to have a positive attitude about their lives like I did. Most of all, I have succeeded in marrying the love of my life and building a beautiful family of 3 children and 5 grandchildren.
I turned my limitation into a platform, I turned society’s negligence into a social movement, and I turned my life of struggle into a life of success with a positive attitude and a will to prosper. Whenever you think you have it tough, remember… someone else always has it worse.
My mission is not yet complete and I look forward to impacting the world at large because our struggle is not over and my drive to inspire the world will never relent.