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Naples Local Helps a Riding Center Make a Difference in Southern Israel

JNF Wire Report

Naples Local Helps a Riding Center
Make a Difference in Southern Israel

By: Allison Levine

On a hot, sunny day in April, the Braverman Family Riding Arena was dedicated, doubling the space available for use at the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center (RMTRC). Situated in the sparsely populated lower Arava Valley, about a half-hour north of Eilat, the RMTRC has been in operation for two decades providing riding therapy for children and adults.

While located in a more remote area of Israel, RMTRC serves the population of small communities in the desert region as well as the city of Eilat (population est. 50,000). Residents in the periphery of Israel—the far north and south—more often than not suffer from a lack of services available to those living in the center of the country, and finding high-quality programs for kids with special needs are harder to find outside of the big cities. The very existence of the therapeutic riding center is a sign of things changing for residents of the periphery.

The new riding arena was made possible by a donation from Neil Braverman of Naples, Florida, who was on hand for the dedication along with his two sons. Russell F. Robinson, CEO of Jewish National Fund, and local leaders also attended the ceremony. “What I look for is how to help kids, and I love horses,” said Neil. “Whatever I can do to help to make this world a little better is what it’s all about.”

RMTRC primarily serves those with disabilities or special needs, providing an opportunity for riding therapy at their center. “Ninety-five percent of our riders have special needs,” said Jill Oron, project coordinator of the riding center. “‘Special needs’ means anything from a neurological or physical disability to an emotional challenge. We see kids who are in wheelchairs, cerebral palsy, and those with autism or ADHD.” There is an aspect of physical therapy involved in the sessions, but therapists also work on self-confidence and control, social and cognitive skills as well.

A number of local riders were on hand to greet the Bravermans and were excited to show off their riding skills and they were clearly moved to see the space in use by the kids who benefit in so many ways from the therapy. “Real impact happens through therapy sessions with horses,” says Oron. “Due to the extreme heat in the region, we have water sprinklers in the riding arena which help our horses and our riders, allowing us to continue riding even in the hot summer months.” The riders enjoy the water sprinklers, not just for their cooling effects. “One day we had an autistic boy in the riding arena—a boy who had never spoken—and said the word “water” suddenly while under the sprinklers, riding his horse.”

At the moment, RMTRC has 22 horses, over 35 volunteers, and serves 230 riders on a weekly basis. In addition to highly trained staff, therapists, and volunteers, the center has other modifications to best serve their special needs riders. Wheelchair accessible platforms to serve physically disabled riders are found throughout the site, and the riding center trains and keeps horses with faster or slower gaits, as well as horses that can accommodate overweight riders. A kid with ADHD might be paired with a horse with a fast gait. A child with a physical disability may be matched with a slower horse. “Each of our horses is carefully paired with their rider, based on personality, size and speed,” said Oron. “The horses here go through a great deal of training—much more than a regular riding center.”

When looking back on the experience of putting this project together, Neil remarked that “It was actually easier to make this project happen here in Israel than it would have been in Florida, where bureaucracy and permits are more complicated and time consuming. Here in Israel, JNF, and specifically Russell, were great partners in making the dream happen, and in a timely fashion.” He also acknowledged that “the choice to build the arena in the southern part of Israel was key to make sure that all people get the support they need.”

Sometimes the existence of a therapeutic riding center can make the difference for a family deciding on relocating or not. “You may have a top tier scientist or doctor looking to relocate to the area,” said Robinson. “But if they have a kid with autism or physical challenges, the first thing they’ll be looking for is to ensure that their child’s needs are met.” By creating and expanding available services and support for people living in the south, a better quality of life is provided for current residents but also will likely serve as a draw for future residents.

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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


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