JNF Wire: Creating New Bonds in Israel: The Story of Peter and Elad
February 5, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
Creating New Bonds in Israel: The Story of Peter and Elad
By: Megan E. Turner
At Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village and partner organization of Jewish National Fund (JNF) that serves people with severe disabilities in Southern Israel, an unlikely friendship has formed.
Peter Von Brockhausen, a native of Holland who recently discovered his family's Jewish roots, and Elad Sair, 30, have built a strong relationship, which is difficult given that Von Brockhausen knows only basic Hebrew and Sair has special needs.
Von Brockhausen, 57, is a teacher and a businessman, who decided he wanted to live in Israel after visiting several times. “From the first moment I arrived in Israel,” he said, “I felt like I was coming home. I was adopted by everyone.” While looking for ways to return and how to fill his time, a fellow Dutchman directed him towards Aleh Negev, and after a few visits, Von Brockhausen said, "I lost my heart here in Aleh Negev."
Sair is a blind resident there, whose sporadic behavior and outbursts of anger kept him from utilizing the wide range of services offered at the village. When Von Brockhausen came to Aleh Negev to volunteer in 2015, his calm nature seemed a perfect pairing with Sair. "It’s been very slow work," Von Brockhausen offered. "He was blind and afraid. He needed to trust me 200%. It was on me to build this connection."
Sair’s love of swimming helped forge this trust. Von Brockhausen started with daily sessions in a small tub to build a bond with Sair and foster confidence in their relationship. Eventually, they made it to the pool together and Von Brockhausen tries to come daily to take Sair swimming. Sair has the use of a wheel chair to get around the sprawling campus, but Von Brockhausen knows that he loves to walk. "It takes us 30 minutes to get there, but I take the time to slowly walk with him."
The communication between these two is mostly non-verbal. "He feels relaxed with me,” said Von Brockhausen, “even though we don’t have ‘traditional’ methods of communication. I have picked up on Sair’s gestures to understand what he needs and he feels my support.” This rapport is obvious as the two walk together on their sunny stroll.
Von Brockhausen, who will soon trade in his volunteer status for that of a full-time employee, is one of a growing group of international volunteers who come to Israel from Europe and North America to give their time and talent to Aleh Negev. Through it all, JNF has proven to be an indispensable partner.
With the aid of JNF and its Task Force on Disabilities, Aleh Negev empowers residents and outpatients to develop a greater degree of independence. In addition to the swimming that Sair and Von Brockhausen enjoy, residents can take advantage of a wide variety of innovative treatments including hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, shiatsu, music therapy, animal therapy, and craft workshops.
In the U.S. nearly one in five people -- and one in eight in Israel -- live with a disability. JNF strives to provide a high quality of life to those who would typically be homebound. In cooperation with its Israeli partners like Aleh Negev, JNF works daily to help children and adults in Israel who have physical, sensory, mental health, and intellectual disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life and to ensure that all are included and not forgotten. Thanks to selfless individuals like Peter Von Brockhausen, even when language may barriers may exist, genuine human kindness transforms lives.
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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.
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