In a land known for its dramatic desert vistas, Mediterranean coastline, and green forests, it’s getting easier for those in Israel who have disabilities to enjoy true inclusiveness by taking part in regular outdoor activities.
Like the United States, nearly one in five Israelis lives with a disability. In recognition of February as Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, Jewish National Fund (JNF) will feature some of its partners in Israel by promoting the stories, successes, and efforts of those who work daily to enable children and adults who have physical, sensory, mental health and intellectual disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life. During Jewish Disability Awareness Month, JNF will focus on creating awareness and raise funds in support of partner programs.
JNF partners to be spotlighted include Aleh Negev, Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit, LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible, and Israel’s inclusive parks. In addition, the new Jewish National Fund Task Force for Special Needs has been created to bring together partner organizations and share resources to meet the needs in geographic areas outside central Israel where there are typically fewer services available.
Highlighting the work of our partners who help make the lives of those with disabilities easier is an obvious choice for JNF,” said Jeffrey E. Levine, President of JNF. “They are the real heroes in the growing trend to make society more inclusive for all by providing the medical science, advocacy, and muscle to get people out of institutions and into the community.”
LOTEM is the leading organization in Israel offering outings, nature clubs, and creative workshops in nature to people with special needs. With centers in Jerusalem and the north of Israel, LOTEM serves more than 30,000 participants every year. LOTEM’s target population includes children and adults who are blind and visually impaired, deaf and hearing impaired, physically and intellectually challenged, emotionally disturbed, and at risk of physical and emotional abuse.
The riders of Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbitz Grofit are children, youth, and adults who live in the southern region of Israel and are in need of therapeutic riding as a result of their developmental, neurological, emotional, behavioral, and/or learning challenges, as well as chronic illness and other handicapping conditions. Riders range in age from 3 to 86 years with mild to severe disabilities.
Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitative Village, located on a large campus in Ofakim near the Gaza border, cares for children with medical conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome, as well as genetic disorders, including Tay-Sachs, Canavan disease, and Rett syndrome. Children there are able to live in much the same way as non-disabled children: attending school, participating in vocational programs, and enjoying activities such as swimming at the beach or touring the countryside. Over the years, ALEH has become a center of excellence for people with disabilities in Israel, and has developed a number of cutting-edge rehabilitative programs that are being studied and replicated worldwide.
Today, thanks to JNF, accessible trails in the north of Israel have enabled people with special needs to enjoy the outdoors. Parks, walking paths, and other activities in nature are being upgraded and built so that Israel’s population of people with special needs children, adolescents, families, IDF veterans, and many others can enjoy their beauty.
Throughout February, JNF’s website, social media channels and blog will commemorate Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month using the hashtag #JDAM2015. To learn more about our partners in Israel, please visit jnf.org.