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      Special Ed Bnei Akiva Group from Australia Tours Israel

      Shevet Yuval, a Bnei Akiva group of special education children from Australia, concluded a special two-week to Israel.
      By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
      First Publish: 9/27/2011, 5:39 AM

      For the last two weeks, members of Bnei Akiva’s Shevet Yuval from Melbourne, Australia, have been visiting Israel. The members of Shevet Yuval are students with disabilities who came to Israel for an Israeli-Jewish experience.

      On their last evening in Israel, the students were hosted by Bnei Akiva members from Jerusalem for a fun-filled evening. Arutz Sheva accompanied them on their trip to Mini Israel.

      “Shevet Yuval is for young adults with special needs,” Yakov Hoffman, one of the counselors, said. “Our main aim is to integrate them with the wider Jewish community so they don’t feel left out or rejected.”

      David Bar’az, who served for one year as an educational emissary in Australia, explained that because the Yuval students are special needs, they do not have the same opportunities that most of their friends have.

      “Most [Jewish] teenagers, when they finish high school they come for a year to Israel,” he said. “Our kids do not have that opportunity, so they come here for these two weeks to get the experience. They feel more connected to the Jewish people and to the land of Israel.”

      One of the participants in the trip was Bev Michael, mother of Yuval member Mattie. She told Arutz Sheva how the trip helps these students feel equal to regular students.

      “This program treats [my son] as an equal,” she said. “He’s treated as an individual, he’s offered opportunities that young adults would be offered. This is a wonderful initiative by Bnei Akiva in Melbourne, and Bnei Akiva leads all the youth groups in taking this initiative to offer our children, who have special needs, an opportunity to do simply what everybody else does.”

      She added that she is inspired by the fact that the trip is well-organized and well-planned. “We’ve been all around the country. They’ve had a taste of every element of Israel that one could possibly wish for.”