The Jewish Link
Jerusalem—On Monday, December 4, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett visited the Jerusalem facility of ALEH (www.aleh.org), Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, to mark the opening month of Bnei Akiva activities with Israel’s only chapter for children with severe disabilities. After greeting each of the children in ALEH’s Bnei Akiva chapter individually, the education minister, a graduate of Bnei Akiva himself, was treated to a truly unique “Chodesh Irgun” performance in which the counselors helped the ALEH residents dance to lively music while waving the flags of Israel, Bnei Akiva and ALEH—a wheelchair-friendly version of traditional “daglanut.”
Following the performance, the education minister proudly sang the youth movement’s anthem together with the parents and ALEH staff members and volunteers in attendance, as well as Rabbi Yehuda Marmorstein, director-general of the ALEH centers; Shlomit Grayevsky, the director of ALEH Jerusalem; Avi Wortzman, CEO of ALEH Negev; and Hagit Moshe, deputy mayor of Jerusalem.
“It would be impossible to find a more uplifting event than this one, which I believe illustrates a dramatic positive shift for Bnei Akiva and for all of Israeli society,” said Education Minister Bennett addressing the crowd. “You, the counselors, could have chosen any Bnei Akiva chapter, but you chose this one, where the work is often very difficult and you do not receive the same kind of feedback from the kids. But I am so thankful that you made this choice, because when I see you interacting with these amazing children, I know for certain that we are the kindest, most beautiful and strongest nation in the world.”
Alon Chasid, the father of a long-time ALEH Jerusalem resident, thanked the education minister for his visit, explaining that he felt comforted knowing that the Israeli government was making the care and education of children with disabilities a top priority.
“It’s no secret that the government is kept very busy dealing with the demands of every political and religious group, but amid all the craziness, our education minister is here with us. As the parent of a child who is often overlooked, this gives me tremendous hope,” said Chasid. “My only request is that the government continues to support this incredible project, so that our children can benefit from wonderful educational programming like Bnei Akiva, just like their non-disabled peers.”
Inspired by his visit to ALEH, the education minister pledged that he would work with Bnei Akiva leadership to create additional chapters across Israel for children with disabilities, as well as increase the number of children allowed in each “special needs chapter” so that even more ALEH residents would be able to take advantage of the programming being coordinated at the facilities they call home.
“You, at ALEH, are the torchbearers, and you cast light upon us all—light for the children who need it most, light for their parents, light for all of Israel and a ‘light unto the nations,’” said the education minister in his parting words to the ALEH staff and volunteers.
ALEH was founded in 1982 by a group of Israeli parents who were determined to give their children with severe complex disabilities the best available care and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. After more than three decades of successful growth and exciting advancements, ALEH has become Israel’s foremost network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, providing over 700 children across the country with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in four residential facilities, located in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Gedera and the Negev. ALEH provides these residents with a continuum of loving care from infancy and childhood through adulthood, allowing them to advance, grow and live happy, dignified and meaningful lives.