Jul 17, 2017  By Adi Cohen  Category: Special Needs,

Everyday Heroes: What it feels like making nature accessible to all

Adi Cohen with a group of children at LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible. 

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Nearly two years have passed since I completed my national service as a guide withLOTEMin Jerusalem, but every time I return to guide a group, that amazing feeling of being part of something big comes back to me. LOTEM’s nature outings impact so many people with special needs, essentially giving them the ability to experience a sense of normalcy -- what they deserve as human beings who live in this beautiful world that surrounds us.

A little while ago, I guided a group of children with cerebral palsy from Haifa. Just getting off the bus into the verdant landscapes of Emek HaShalom -- which is flowering during this season after the winter rains -- lit up their faces. We had a picnic in the middle of nature: who would have thought there are children for whom this experience is so uncommon? The children prepared their own olive oil in the wheelchair-accessible oil press, spun the machine with such excitement and prepared clay lamps with great patience and dedication.

We ate wild mustard flowers -- the children didn't even think it could be possible to eat a flower you pick in nature!  So many activities that most of us would take for granted but turned the day into such a festive and special experience for these children. 

More on inclusivity

Moved and awe-inspired witnessing Israelis with special needs
How Israel weaves the disabled into its fabric

For me, this outing and these children were a ray of light in the middle of a routine week. The experience was a reminder to me what freedom is about and what we need to be so grateful for every day of the year.

Jewish National Fund partners with Lotem-Making Nature Accessible to ensure no member of Israeli society is left behind.