|The planned interior of the newly-announced rehab hospital at Aleh Negev|
It will be erected beside the largest of its four institutions for people with disabilities, Aleh Negev Nahalat Eran. And it is heavily subsidized by the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency. Naturally, donations are also welcome.
The PR "smoke-in-our-eyes" piece glosses over the institutionalization aspect while homing in on the planned hospital's features.
I noticed two interesting details that I fear will likely be overlooked:
- In mentioning the institution where some 140 children and young adults are locked away and isolated from society, it refers to them as "villagers". How quaint. Only they are not villagers in any sense of the word. A village is "a part of a world clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand." That's Wikipedia speaking.
- In mentioning "Dr. Itzhak Siev-Ner, head of the Rehabilitation Department at the Health Ministry who is leading the new venture on behalf of the government" it omits that he is also Medical Director, ALEH Negev–Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Hospital [source]. I'd wager that's a conflict of interest of the first order.
|Bizchut protest outside Ministry of Welfare August 2019 in the wake|
of the killing of Ephraim Ben Baruch
Ephraim Ben Baruch lived for six years in the Ramat Haifa residential facility, intended for people with cognitive developmental disability. Throughout, he complained repeatedly to his family members. "He said it's bad for him, that he is being hit", says his mother, Racheli Ben Baruch. "When I visited the facility in order to complain they showed me photographs of him laughing and eating. That everything was fine. I believed them. I call on parents whose children live in hostels not to be complacent like me. If your child complains, start acting so that you will not face the situation that befell me."
Ephraim died three weeks ago in the institution he lived in after he was allegedly beaten by his caregiver.
A tragedy like this, that joins other cases of abuse by counselors and caregivers of their charges, highlights the need for a "house cleaning" (in Hebrew: בדק בית) of everything related to appropriate housing solutions for people with disabilities.
Only two months ago, a young woman who worked in a hostel in Kfar Saba was accused of attacking a resident of the institution on several occasions. In January, the police arrested two women on suspicion of attacking a 50 year old resident of the hostel in Nahariya where they worked.
According to 2014 findings, there are some 25,000 people with disabilities living in "out of home" residences (hostels, dormitories and protected residences) in Israel. The overwhelming majority are people with emotional disabilities and with cognitive developmental disabilities; a minority have physical and sensory disabilities.
Some 6,100 people with cognitive developmental disabilities live in 63 dormitories (96.8 residents per institution on average), nine of which are governmental with another small number operated by amutot (not-for-profit associations). The overwhelming majority are institutions owned by private companies that naturally see before their eyes the bottom line.
The Right to Your Own Toothbrush
The above atrocities were committed in institutions against a background of a revolution in global awareness that is hastening an end to the locking up and isolating of people with disabilities from the community. In Western countries, the trend is towards the closure of large institutions and transfer of residents to independent living within the community.
Scandinavian states were the first to close such residences for people with cognitive developmental disabilities, in the 1970's. Both New Zealand and Canada have since done the same. In the US, two thirds have already been shuttered and even in Bulgaria, a less western country, legislation has been passed mandating the closure of all such institutions by 2024 and the transfer of residents to in-community living with personal assistance.
In Israel the Bizchut organization has been leading the demand for the closure of institutions, which has been ignored for many years. Only in 2011 did the Ministry of Welfare invite five international experts to draft a literature review of the transfer from dormitory residences to in-community living.
"Research findings demonstrate a clear picture: community services are more beneficial than institutional living for the totality of people with cognitive developmental disabilities", they stated.
The request for a literature review arrived four years after Israel signed the UN Treaty for the Rights of People with Disabilities, wherein paragraph 19 determines that "The State must ensure that people with disabilities will be able to choose where and with whom they live as any person is free to choose and that they will not be forced to live in a specific living arrangement."
In 2012, the State ratified the treaty. Thus so long as residential dormitories operate, the state is in fact in violation of the law.
"The mere fact of life in an institution constitutes the negation of rights", says Ronen Gil Massi, of the ASD community in Israel. "A person who lives in an institution cannot decide with whom he will share his room or whether. A person doesn't even have a place for his personal toothbrush. A person's individual freedom must not be denied just because his only "crime" is that he is a person with disabilities.
Three weeks ago, a man was murdered whose sole crime was that he was cognitively impaired. This must not be permitted to continue time after time, and each time for us to be told "We'll only shut down the problematic institutions." [Source]