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Improving Integration for Israel’s Special Needs and Disabled Community Takes Center Stage in the Negev

JNF Wire Report

Improving Integration for Israel’s Special Needs and Disabled Community Takes Center Stage in the Negev

By: Allison Levine

ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a state-of-the-art rehabilitative village located in Israel’s Negev Desert, is already known for providing unparalleled access to individuals with an array of physical and mental disabilities who are in need of long term care. Residents and those receiving outpatient services find a bright, sprawling campus full of parks and green spaces, along with world-renowned medical care, staff, and volunteers. A rehabilitation hospital is also being constructed on site, and ALEH Negev is now tackling what may be an even harder task: Fighting stigma and improving integration into Israeli society.

“My son Eran taught me about society. He showed me how the disabled are discriminated against constantly,” said Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, founder of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) partner. Almog, who received the Israel Prize in 2016, is well known both for his distinguished military career as well as his tireless work on behalf of Israel’s special needs community.

On a sunny day in late May, Almog was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Charlie Shor Park at the village. Guests from the surrounding communities, JNF donors, and ALEH Negev residents, staff and volunteers attended the festive and boisterous event.

Almog spoke about the shame often associated with having a child born with a disability, and society’s tendency to isolate the disabled from the rest of the population. But ALEH Negev is looking to change that. “We are integrating the disabled into the rest of society,” said Almog. “No one has taken them to concerts or performances, and this new park with its amphitheater will be a model of integration.”

Dedicated by Caroline, Marissa, and Charlie Shor of Cincinnati, OH, the new outdoor amphitheater is fully wheelchair accessible, and while it is located on ALEH Negev's campus, the idea is to host concerts and performances that will bring together people from all walks of life, regardless of their ability level.

The audience’s excitement was palpable at the dedication especially during a mini concert by renowned Israeli singer, Shlomo Gronich. Visiting JNF donors were singing and dancing with the village’s residents and clapping along with the many volunteers and representatives from the local communities. As the music filled the air, there was a true sense of togetherness, and the vision for future integrated events could be seen clearly.

JNF-USA CEO Russell F. Robinson mentioned some other ways that ALEH Negev is working on integrating the disabled and special needs community into society. As he walked to join the festivities, he pointed out a particular playground on the campus.

“This playground is not just designed for disabled residents. It’s also for typically developing siblings or friends that come to visit,” Robinson explained. “At ALEH Negev, you never feel like you are coming to an institution; you’re walking into a living experience.”

The day’s celebration concluded on a high note with the singing of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, by soldiers serving in the IDF’s Special in Uniform program. A JNF partner, Special in Uniform is another example of how Israel is making strides in improving the integration of individuals with disabilities into society by providing them with the opportunity to serve their country—a model that can surely be replicated around the world.

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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.

JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.

For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.

 

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