President Obama views ReWalk Demonstration in Israel

ReWalk_washingtonpostPresident Barack Obama has permitted TV crews with live microphones to accompany him at virtually every stop in Israel, giving a rare and fascinating glimpse at the joking and small talk that takes place on the sidelines of official visits. In Jerusalem on Thursday, Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Israel Museum, where they examined the Dead Sea Scrolls. Reading a passage from Isaiah from a facsimile of a scroll, Netanyahu explained: “It says, ‘Nations should not lift swords unto nations and they shall know war no more.

In the most emotional moment of the tech tour, Obama and Netanyahu encountered a Druze Israeli war veteran and a U.S. army veteran, both paralyzed from the waist down. Both demonstrated how they were able to walk with the help of crutches and a computerized exoskeleton that supported their legs as they moved.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – MARCH 21: U.S. President Barack Obama greets Theresa Hannigan from New York, who is wearing a ReWalk bionic walking assistance system, at an Israeli technology exhibition at the Israel Museum on March 21, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. This is President Obama’s first visit as president to the region, and his itinerary includes meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (Photo by Debbie Hill-Pool/Getty Images)

Obama gave both of them presidential “challenge coins,” used to recognize veterans for their service.

The army veteran, Theresa Hannigan, a 60-year-old woman from Long Island, N.Y., was learning how to use the motorized aides, called the ReWalk, at the Bronx VA hospital. She implored Obama to help the device obtain FDA approval. Her voice breaking, Hannigan stood straight and hugged Obama.

The system is made by an Israeli company called Argo Medical Technologies. Its exoskeleton suit uses computers and motion sensors to allow paraplegics to walk with motorized legs that power knee and hip movement.
Obama offered a personal reflection. “Michelle’s father had MS, so he used crutches until he was probably 45, 50, then got a wheelchair.”
Netanyahu replied: “This would have given him a different life.”

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