Wednesday, February 14, 2018

JDAIM: Riding horses offers life-changing therapy in Israel's desert

Volunteers at Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, located on Kibbutz Grofit. 
February is Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society. 

By Eric Narrow

The trip along Israel's Route 90 includes views of sand, mountain terrain, and expansive vistas. Turn onto a small road toward the picturesque hills of Jordan and you'll also see a desert oasis filled with the smiles and laughter of hundreds of children and adults with special needs. 

They come from all over the region to the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit. 

“Horse therapy transcends the spectrum of all types of special needs,” says the center’s founder, Jill Oron. Participants come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, and the services help those with social, cognitive, physical, and emotional disabilities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

JDAIM: In Israel, an olive harvest accessible to kids in wheelchairs

Planting olive trees with Dick Berman, center in blue jacket. 
February is Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.  

By Alisa Bodner, former director of development at LOTEM

On a chilly December morning two years ago, I had the opportunity to make olive oil with the children of the Keren Or (Ray of Light) special education program and my good friend Dick Berman, JNF board president of Northern California, at LOTEM’s ecological farm in Emek HaShalom.  

Making olive oil with LOTEM is a unique educational experience for individuals with special needs. The activity is sensory-heightening and also provides a hands-on learning experience that's broken down into simple, easy-to-comprehend stages.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Israel trip teaches lessons on nuance: '7.4 billion sides to every story'


The Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission is a 10-day, fully subsidized trip to Israel for non-Jewish student leaders who have never been there. The unique educational program, which took place this year from Dec. 27 - Jan. 7, lets participants explore Israel by meeting with political, cultural, and community leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths. Here, a reflection on this year's CFD trip by a Vanderbilt University student.

By Alexis Cook

I went into the the Caravan for Democracy trip with an itinerary and packing list but no solid concept of why anyone would pay for 80 college students to travel to another country. It didn't make sense to me, so I anticipated a heavy political agenda. Especially because I had lived in Jordan for about two months during my gap year, I already had some exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ways it had affected the Jabers, my beloved host family in Amman. Learning more about a conflict that affects those I love so dearly was actually one of my motivations for attending the trip. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

JDAIM: Israeli soldiers with special needs change IDF comrades' lives

Major Oren H., right in uniform.


February is Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.  

By Major Oren H., IDF

You know those pictures that tell you to take a look and say what you see, and after you come up with a banal answer they say, "Now take a really good look and say what you see"? You look for a minute or two, and suddenly you notice something completely different hidden in the picture? This story reminds me of those images.
 
My name is Oren. I am 41, married to Hila, and the father of three. I've made a career serving in the Israel Defense Forces, and am a pilot. For 17 years I flew various types of helicopters helping Israel’s ground forces, making decisions during combat, rescuing the wounded, and helping families and friends during their darkest times. 

Throughout my military career, I have held numerous command positions, and a year ago, I was chosen as the new deputy commander at the Palmachim Air Force Base, where some 4,500 live and work. During my two-week orientation and in between managing budgets, projects and contractors, one morning, the outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Moti, informed me that we were visiting a special place. "Special?" I asked. "You'll see," was all he would answer.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

'No easy answer' to Israel complexities: A young first-timer's reflections

The author, center in blue, with her fellow Caravan for Democracy participants.

The Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission is a 10-day, fully subsidized trip to Israel for non-Jewish student leaders who've never been. The unique program, which took place this year from Dec. 27 - Jan. 7, gives participants the opportunity to explore Israel by meeting with political, cultural, and community leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths. Here, a reflection on this year's CFD trip by a University of Virginia student.

By Megha Karthikeyan

Spending 10 days in Israel with 80 student leaders was an amazing experience. Being able to have deep conversations with people I had only known for a few days and understanding their perspectives opened my eyes to other ways of thinking. That said, my time in Israel was confusing in some ways. 

Going into the trip I didn't know how to feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I hadn't learned a lot about it in my classes and I wanted this trip to show me what the right answer was. However, I learned early on that Israel and its neighbors are very complex and there is no black and white solution to the problem. 

Our tour guide Yariv said, "I’ve been confused for my entire life about the conflict, so you can’t expect to understand it in 10 days." This resonated with me because I always thought that if I talked to enough people I would know which policy was the right one for both Israel and Palestine to agree on. When we spoke with Einat Wilf, a former politician, she said she didn’t think the Palestinians wanted a state because of the Palestinian moderates she had met with. She said they didn't acknowledge the existence of Israel, which was a crucial point the Israelis wanted. This confused me because I felt the average Palestinian would want peace and would want to have their own state to call home. The language being used described what the government said more than what the people decided.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

JNF Staff Spotlight: Kate Samuels takes Israel to Jews in small towns

Kate, far left, with JNF lay leaders at the National Conference in Florida this November.
"I don't follow college sports." The dinner table fell silent. It became increasingly clear that my vast knowledge on Israel would not help me here. College football was THE religion in this small town, and I had just declared I wasn't a part of it.

That was my first experience in a small-town Jewish community. Growing up in Connecticut, I gave little thought to what it meant to be Jewish or have Jewish friends. And college football was definitely not a religion where I came from. 

After my first trip to a small Jewish community in the south, I became fascinated and intrigued by those who CHOSE to live in a small town and maintain their commitment to Israel and Judaism. Being Jewish in a small Jewish community requires dedication and commitment. Throughout my years of working in small communities, I have met tremendous individuals who are working day in and day out to ensure a strong Jewish future for their children. And it's not easy for them.