Hundreds gathered in Jerusalem Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of the new Shalva National Center for children with special needs. The ceremony was attended by Nechama Rivlin (wife of President Reuven Rivlin), Welfare and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and Olympic medalist Uri Sasson, among others.
"I fell in love with the concept that Shalva represents, said Barkat. "It is an icon and a role model for the world. Shalva has shown innovation in dealing with children with special needs and I believe it will create ripple effects around the world. Ki Mitziyon teze Torah (From Zion Torah will go forth, a quote from Isaiah, ed.)."
"When people come to the city of Jerusalem, they ask me what they should see. I tell them to go see the City of David so they see their roots. And then I tell them to go and see Shalva. People who enter this center do not go out the same people. This place changes them," Barkat added.
Gordon Diamond, the major benefactor of the building, flew in from Canada with his family. He and his wife Leslie affixed the mezuzah to the doorpost and dedicated the building.
"Shalva epitomizes Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place and respect for family dignity. I am sure that Shalva will serve as the gold standard in its field for many years to come," said Gordon. "For me and my family, it is an amazing honor to help this institution."
Avi Samuels, the "We are happy to be here with our partners and friends from all over the world who've made this dream possible. We have built a an open house full of color, a magical place for the children of Shalva. We are humbled to open this state of the art facility."
MK Haim Katz said that "This is a huge day of giving. There's so much heart and so much soul. We are very fortunate to have the Samuels family."
Kalman Samuels, who founded Shalva 27 years ago with his wife Malki when their infant son became blind and deaf following a faulty vaccination, stated, "For me it's a miracle every moment and seeing the happy faces of the children, we have fulfilled our destiny with this center." He thanked his audience of philanthropists, dignitaries and well-wishers, "Your boundless love and your selfless care for your brothers and sisters makes this earthly site heavenly. I have gratitude to the Almighty and gratitude to each of you who continue to impact precious lives."