ALEH Negev Shows No Limit to What Disabled Can Do

ALEH Negev's rehabilitation hosts Congressional staffers and shows them how Israeli ingenuity can change how we care for its vulnerable.

Gedalyah Reback ,

Wheelchair (illustrative)
Wheelchair (illustrative)

Just yesterday, a delegation of American Congressional staffers visited the rehabilitative village of ALEH Negev – Nahalat Eran in Israel’s Negev.  The delegation is the 12th in a series promoted by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, an American law that promotes fact-finding missions for members of Congressional offices to develop their acumen and advising abilities.

“Visits to the village are an important element in its vision,” says Stav Herling-Gosher, who runs public and international relations for ALEH. “To break down the walls around the populations with special needs, smashing stereotypes and changing the perception that the person is limited in Israeli society - a mission we’ve chosen to call ‘Tikkun Olam.’"

The center itself is well-connected. It was founded by Major General (Res.) Doron Almog to serve his son Eran, who has since passed away (and lending his name to the institution).  The institute now has 230 patients and 230 caregivers. There is also a large outpatient program and clinic that operates for the good of the local community.

Herling-Gosher sees the visit as evidence of how significant the organization’s work has become.

“The visit of the Congressional advisers enables them to get familiar with social projects in Israel and familiarize themselves with other sides to the country that most of the world wouldn't recognize. In this way we can encourage the building and establishment of places well-suited for people with special needs that are similar to rehabilitation village ALEH Negev - Nahalat Eran which is a role model (for such) in the world.”

“The visit in itself and raising awareness towards the issue and its importance is welcome. They could have gone to other places, but they ALEH because it is different from other places in the country.”

ALEH works hard to break stereotypes about the disadvantaged and to bring a sense of normalcy to the non-disabled who might visit the center.

“It’s a platform for the public and the disabled community. There are two regular kindergartens in the village where we teach the kids going there from an early age to accept people's differences and 'the other.’”

“They learn together, non-disabled children and special needs children. In addition, we have a rehabilitation department that serves the local residents. This combination is a hope for a better future.”

ALEH received recognition as a priority “National Project” in June 2003. As a result, according to their website, “The Israel Lands Administration designated an area of 25 acres for the project, and the project was overseen by the Southern Development Authority in coordination with the ALEH organization.”

Asked if the institute’s success and recent staffer visit might put ALEH in line for foreign funding from the US Congress, Herling-Gosher did not think this visit might manage that, but she held out hope for the future of the relationship with foreign representatives.

“I'm not sure we can get the support of the US Congress - we're definitely going to keep up with the staffer who said at the end of the visit that are willing to help us and showed great willingness to support the village.”

Another jewel in the crown of the organization is that it has become a center of cooperation for Jews and Bedouin in the Negev.

“Another combination special village is a partnership with the local Bedouin population. Bedouin and Jewish children are educated together in kindergarten, in addition to working in the (local) Bedouin village.”

“It goes along the lines of a “Tikkun Olam” theme –  one of the pillars of rehabilitation village Aleh Negev - Nahalat Eran.”

According to Herling-Gosher, the organization sees society as strong as its weakest members, meaning that we had to all recognize we were all in the same boat together and responsible for each other’s welfare were we to have a healthy society in Israel.

“Doron Almog believes the organization's strength is measured in relation to its weaknesses. People with special needs are the weakest link in society; they cannot speak for nor represent themselves.”

Ultimately, she finds the entire experience of representing the group inspiring.

“Just by visiting the village, and by the fact that this is a "national project," paves the way towards the change in the perception of the disabled person in Israel.”