He is an exceptional career solider in the aircraft department in the IAF, he mostly communicates through E-mails and text messages and is even a professional athlete in his spare time. Nothing can stop MSTR. SRGT. Eran Bitton from fulfilling his dreams, not even his hearing disability. He also has a message for you

Eilon Tohar | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida & Ofri Aharon

There’s a lot to learn from MSTR. SRGT. Eran Bitton. Today, in career soldier attire, he shares stories about his childhood in which he studied in a school with an integration program for partially deaf students, all in writing. Aviation always enchanted him and when he reached draft age, he launched a tenacious battle that reached the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to draft to the IDF, specifically the IAF, until he succeeded in 2004. For him, this was a dream come true.

He was positioned as an assistant of a Logistics Officer in the F-15 Structure Department and later asked to continue in career service. Despite the difficulty to find a position for him, he fought for his integration as a career soldier in the IAF and currently serves as a Logistics Officer for Blackhawk Helicopters in the helicopter department in IAF HQ.

Since he joined the IAF, MSTR. SRGT. Bitton has acted as an intermediary for the hearing disabled community in the IAF and helps them with their integration in the IAF. Thanks to his activity, 10 hearing impaired volunteers have been drafted and some even continued into career service. For them he serves as a personal coach and helps them with any problem they encounter. He also met the IAF commander and delivers lectures about his personal story.

Our interview is held in his office in IAF HQ, with Maj. Nir, Eran’s commander and the Head of the Mechanics Department, who is there to help me communicate with him. The communication between us is mostly carried out by way of emphasized talking which allows Eran to read my lips, by basic gestures as answers to my questions and by use of a piece of paper on which we correspond. I pull the piece of paper to me and ask him when his passion for aviation began. “From my childhood”, he writes back without hesitation. “I have always had an interest in anything to do with aviation. I dreamt to become a pilot. The most important thing is that I work in aviation today”.

“Hearing impaired people can achieve anything they wish”

Photography: Ayelet Eder

“I see myself staying in the IAF all the way”
According to him, most people with hearing impairments still struggle with integration during the military service, especially in career service, because there are still personal, social and systemic barriers and much patience is required from their environment. He would like to see more hearing impaired soldiers in the IDF and IAF and he even views it as a personal goal. I write to him on the piece of paper: Do you sometimes feel that you need to prove yourself more than others?

“Yes. Always”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“Here. Only here”, he writes back. He hesitates and adds: “My children will also be here”.

MSTR. SRGT. Bitton has three children: Harel (6.5), Noah (4.5) and Anahel (2.5). He is married to Meital, who also serves in the IAF despite her hearing impairment. Every member of his family suffers from a hearing impediment from birth, but his children underwent a cochlear implant at the age of one year, which provides them with hearing abilities. In his free time he is also a professional Futsal player and plays for a special team for the hearing impaired and flies to tournaments in Europe almost every year.

“Hearing impaired people can achieve anything they wish”

Photography: Ayelet Eder

“Who is Eran Bitton? I would like to thank him on the phone”
In his position he serves as an expert in the logistics field for the IAF’s Blackhawk squadrons and is in contact with the squadrons, deals with complex systems and is responsible for acquisition and maintenance process’. His work during the “Second Lebanon” War and the operations in Gaza strip, make him the first hearing impaired person to take part in two wars. Almost all of the communication with him is carried out by E-mails and text messages and his disability doesn’t limit him at all, on the contrary, he is considered one of his department’s most exceptional career servicemen.

“I won’t lie, before Eran arrived, I asked questions, mostly because I had never commanded a hearing impaired soldier before”, admits Maj. Nir, his commander for two years. “I must admit that I was surprised by his independence and abilities and today he is one of the best people we have. In one of our visits to one of the Blackhawk squadrons, one of the HAS commanders came up to me and asked me ‘who this Eran?’. He said he wanted to call him and thank him for his excellent work, his devotion and timely responses. I had to explain Eran’s disability, who cannot speak on the phone”.

Nearing the end of the interview, I use the piece of paper between us once again and ask him to convey a message. This is what Eran wrote: “I would like to convey a message of equality, raise awareness for hearing disabilities and see disabled people integrated into military and civilian positions. Hearing impaired people can achieve anything they wish”.

“Hearing impaired people can achieve anything they wish”

Photography: Ayelet Eder