An Unlikely Hero

Rafi Eldor is becoming an increasingly known and respected figure among the Israeli public, and among people all over the world who are interested in the way dance may help confront the limiting effects of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, even people with no connection to the condition consider him an example of resilience and of the triumph of mind over body. What is it about Eldor that makes him such a fascinating figure?

Fame Against the Odds

Rafi Eldor is an unlikely hero because his public advocacy for facing Parkinson’s bravely was preceded by his career as a professor of Economics. He specializes in risk management, options, and future bonds, and is a successful, often cited economist who publishes on a wide variety of economics subfields. His is a somewhat grey and dull area for people uninterested in economics, but for Rafi teaching and academic research were his primary, lifelong passions and interest. Before dance suddenly entered his life that is.

Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone

Eldor has the appearance of what many may imagine to be a quintessential academic. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he did not shy away from creative and unconventional ways of confronting his hardship. Breaking the surface mould of a mature economist, Eldor turned to a place well beyond his comfort zone. He has said that when a doctor recommended dancing as a way of stabilizing his condition he was a little embarrassed, so he went to look for a young inexperienced dance instructor in the hope that they would have more patience towards his then deteriorating condition. It was then that he met Roni Peled: a therapeutic dance instructor, who recalls (in a joint interview published on YouTube) how when she first met Rafi he could hardly circle his arms around. But after overcoming the difficult beginning the practice payed off: Now, after dance assisted him in confronting the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Eldor instructs others and participates competitions, one of them being the Pro-Am dance contest he participated with his partner- the famous Israeli dancer Anna Aharonov.

Spreading Hope

Eldor’s journey, from the somewhat esoteric and introverted realm of academia and from being unable to walk at a normal pace or stand in an upright posture, to being an accomplished ballroom dancer and participating in competitions in front of crowds — is the journey which inspired so many people to battle their own disabilities and conditions. This victory against the odds is a story worth telling in order to spread the hope that is often so lacking for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And Rafi Eldor is committed to doing so. He keeps dancing and practicing for future competitions, he has given an inspirational talk about his personal story on TED, and he actively participates in fundraising for Parkinson’s disease research.