Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron AlmogIsrael news photo: file

The Aleh organization is one of Israel's better known chessed (social service) groups, thanks to its fundraising campaigns – with the most well-known on El Al, where the organization distributes envelopes where travelers can insert their “small money,” coins and small bills, giving money to the organization to make “big changes” in the lives of thousands of physically and mentally challenged kids.

And, in a special once-a-year event, the Jerusalem Aleh organization will conduct a special tour in English and Hebrew of the renewed Israel Museum for members and guests on Monday night from 7 p.m.. The event is being held in memory of Mrs.  Betsy Shapiro, who worked with the organization for years and passed away this year, and there are still some places available .

While there are many worthy organizations in Israel, Aleh is unique in providing care for some of the most difficult cases in the country, says organization spokesperson Sarah Hershkowitz. “Aleh operates four centers where hundreds of children who are serious challenged,  mentally and physically, receive full-time care, along with thousands of children who received outpatient care at one of Aleh's four centers – in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Gedera, and Mehavim-Ofakim,” she says.

What's unique about the Aleh centers – especially the ones in Jerusalem and Merhavim-Ofakim – is that they are the country's first high dependency care units for children. “Children who require long-term care are able to have all their needs met in these centers,” says Hershkowitz. “They go to school there, enjoy social and leisure activities, and of course receive medical care.”

About 450 kids live in Aleh's four centers, and each center also runs a day care center for children who are able to live at home, but need constant care. Some 160 children are enrolled in these programs as well. In addition, Hershokowitz says, thousands of children receive professional help at Aleh centers on an outpatient basis – coming in for specific help like speech therapy, physical therapy, and other programs.

IDF Major General Doron Almog was a major force behind the establishment of Aleh. Almog was the first para-reconnaissance commander to land at Entebbe in the 1976 rescue operation, in order to help care for his severely mentally challenged son Eran. Almog began working with Aleh in 1997, when Eran was 13, and it continues its work with Israel's physically and mentally challenged. Eran passed away in 2007, at age 23.

Besides selling tickets to the Israel Museum event, the organization has produced a fundraising journal. The money will be used for current Aleh programs, as well as construction of another residential center in the Negev, as well as for establishment of a school in Bnei Brak for special need children. “There are still many youngsters who need long-term care,” says Hershkowitz. “These kids are in the hospital, and they're not going home anytime soon. Our centers help make their lives a little easier."