Five Towns Jewish Times
On Tuesday, February 16, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett marked Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month with a visit to the Negev-based rehabilitative village of ALEH (www.ALEH.org), Israel’s largest network of facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. In recent days, Education Minister Bennett has expressed interest in developing programming that encourages children in middle and high school to volunteer with special-needs peers, and his tour of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran solidified that desire.
“Without a doubt, ALEH Negev is the capital of Israel’s soul. Beyond the care that it provides for Israel’s severely disabled children, it is also a gift for all citizens of Israel in that it allows us as a nation to become better, more caring, and more sensitive individuals,” commented Bennett following the tour. “I want to see children in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades and beyond volunteering with special-needs children in their communities and coming here to ALEH Negev to discover how we can become a better society.”
Education Minister Bennett lamented having grown up in an educational system that did not expose him to peers with cognitive and physical disabilities, explaining that learning empathy becomes a daunting task later in life.
“ALEH’s ability to create a bridge between hearts is a tremendous gift to the people of Israel, and I want everyone to enjoy this blessed gift. To accomplish this, we will promote a joint volunteering project with the Ministry of Education that will allow us to bridge the gap in Israeli society,” added Bennett.
“The test of our education system—really our whole country—is how we care for those who are powerless within our society, those who cannot fend for themselves. These special children are our treasure and must be treated as such.”
ALEH was founded in 1982 by a group of Israeli parents who were determined to give their severely disabled children the best available care and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potentials. Three decades later, ALEH has become Israel’s largest network of residential care facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.
ALEH’s four residential facilities, located in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Gedera, and the Negev, provide over 700 children and young adults with all the specialized services they need to live a quality life: residential living, medical care, rehabilitative and therapeutic treatment, special education, vocational-training opportunities, and social and cultural activities. In addition, ALEH provides thousands of outpatient sessions to children with milder disabilities who are able to live at home.