Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Nine years without Eran: A dad's deeply moving eulogy for his disabled son

It's been nine years since Major General Doron Almog's beloved son Eran died at age 23. To mark that occasion, Almog delivered the following words at his son's gravesite in Israel last week. Almog and his wife Didi established Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran in their son's name to provide high-level medical and rehabilitative care to severely disabled adults and children. JNF is an Aleh Negev partner. 
Doron Almog and his son, Eran, who passed away in 2007. 

When you were born, we called you Eran -- for my brother Eran, who never came back from the war, who lay bleeding for a week near his burning tank before his lifeless body was rescued and brought home.

When you were just 8 months old, our dream -- the dream of parents everywhere -- was shattered. The psychologist at Assaf HaRofeh Hospital diagnosed you as suffering with autism combined with intellectual disability.  Apparently you would remain as you were that day, a baby several months of age, for as long as you lived, and you would most probably never learn to speak.

She was right. During all your 23 years, you never spoke one word. You never called me abba. And yet, despite this, you were to become the greatest teacher of my life. Your silent scream pierced through my soul, penetrating every fiber of my being with an endless discourse about the place of children and people just like you in an achievement-oriented society, one that measures a person’s worth by the yardstick of ability and skill.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

JNF's Jewish Disabilities Action Month: 'Because awareness isn't enough'

While February is known as Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Jewish National Fund is rebranding it as an "action month" to ensure that everyone, regardless of individual challenges, is able to feel that they are supported and belong.

Nearly one in five people in the U.S. and one in eight in Israel live with a disability. JNF and its partners work daily to help children and adults in Israel who have physical, sensory, mental health, and intellectual disabilities enjoy a better quality of life.

JNF partners include Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible, Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit, and Special in Uniform, which integrates those with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces. In addition, the new JNF Task Force on Disabilities has been created to bring partner organizations together to share resources and meet the needs of those with disabilities in Israel's north and south, where there are typically fewer services available.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

An inclusive society is a better society: How Israel weaves the disabled into its fabric

Throughout February, to mark Jewish Disability Awareness Month, we'll be featuring stories about special needs and inclusion in Israel. Look for them on this blog, as well as on JNF's main Facebook page, its Humans of JNF Facebook page, and Instagram.  

Photo: Miriam Braun
Evan Samuels, one of the special-needs workers at 
Kishor Winery. 
By Noah Alhadeff

From Eilat to the Golan Heights, there are dozens of wineries in Israel. Each one operates pretty much the same as the next: Seeds are planted, grapes are grown, grapes get mashed, juice gets aged, and wine gets bottled. But at Kishor Winery in Israel's north, something, well, special is happening. 

Along the wine-making timeline you’ll see adults with special needs pitching in to do things like prune the grapevines and work in the bottling warehouse. Their disabilities range from the behavioral to the physical and mental, but one thing remains constant. They're being included just like everyone else.

In a country where nearly one in five adults has some form of disability, according to the Myers-JDC Brookdale Institute, it's not hard to find organizations that make true disability inclusion their imperative. Kibbutz Kishorit, where the Kishor Winery is located, is just one of them. "Each member contributes to the community according to his ability and takes from the community according to his need," the kibbutz says.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

'A win-win': Special in Uniform's new president on why including people with disabilities matters

Special in Uniform president Iftach Ron-Tal
General Iftach Ron-Tal, new president of Special in Uniform,
honors a soldier from the IDF's homefront command unit
Special in Uniform, a JNF-supported program that integrates young people with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces, has just named a new president, General Iftach Ron-Tal. 

General Ron-Tal is a former commander of the IDF Ground Forces Command and former head of the Israel Port Authority, the government agency that operates and manages Israel's seaports in Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat. Currently, he serves as chairman of Israel Electric Corporation

Ron-Tal shared a few thoughts with the JNF blog as we head into February, Jewish Disability Awareness Month

How does an inclusive society benefit society as a whole? 

Building a society that looks beyond a person's disability is a win-win situation. It's a key measure of the civilization we hope to build together, and if there is one thing the Jewish people have to offer humanity, it's the notion that we are all created in the image of God. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tu BiShvat bash in Tel Aviv connects hundreds with their roots: 'I've never seen anything like it'

By Shira Nussdorf

Heavy winds and driving rain couldn't dampen spirits at the Tel Aviv Tu BiShvat wine and cheese tasting seder this past Sunday night. Hundreds of young Jews gathered at the JNFuture Israel event to learn traditional Tu BiShvat customs using the latest technology. 

"I came all the way from Jerusalem to check out this scene,” said Ahuva Moses, a sociologist from New York City. "I've never seen anything like it."

Guests included students and new olim (immigrants), JNFuture members, and a rabbi to lead the event. Rabbi Shlomo Chayen, with a glass in one hand and an iPhone in the other, challenged the crowd to participate in a Jewish-themed trivia game. Winners received a bottle of wine from a Golan winery as participants learned blessings. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

For Tu BiShvat, going back to nature as it was in biblical times

Neot Kedumim planting

Tu BiShvat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, marks the new year for trees in Israel. It's a time of renewal in nature when the earliest-blooming trees awaken from their dormant winter state and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. 

There is perhaps no better place in Israel to observe this process than at Neot Kedumim, a reserve that's host to a biblical landscape in the heart of the country. Neot Kedumim was founded in 1964 near the city of Modi'in, and was once a barren no-man's land on the border with Jordan. Its founder, the late Israel Prize winner Nogah Hareuveini, turned it into a lush re-creation of Israel's ancient landscape that today serves as both a 625-acre park and a learning center. It also encompasses the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Harvey Hertz Ceremonial Tree Planting Center.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There's still time to enter our #PoweredByJNF photo contest and win prizes

Were you one of the 1,000-plus young people who went to Israel this winter on a JNF-supported program? If so, we hope you've been sharing photos of your adventures on social media using the hashtag #PoweredByJNF. If you haven't, there's still time to do so -- and enter our photo contest at the same time. 

You have until January 31 to share your shots from Israel with the #PoweredByJNF and @JNFUSA tags (remember to make your profile public until then so we can see the posts!) and enter to win one of three $180 JNF gift cards. A little over a week left to show us what you got -- share your best selfies, sunset shots, and foodie posts with us today! We'll judge winners based both on numbers of likes and photo quality. Extra points for creativity.