Monday, January 15, 2018

Is this why our government loves Aleh?

State Attorney Shai Nitzan visiting Aleh Negev [Image Source]
This blog has often bemoaned the incessant procession of dignitaries to Aleh's institutions. The latest to join is State Attorney, Shai Nitzan, who was given "a tour of the village", referring to Aleh Negev, on January 9, 2018.

The kudos that Israel's officials accord Aleh's large, closed  institutions is unforgivable. It intensifies the uphill battle facing  people with disabilities and their families who crave true equality and true inclusion as opposed to the ersatz equality and inclusion that Aleh's PR peddles.

But Mr. Nitzan must be commended for his honesty, inadvertent though it probably was. In his praise for Aleh's enterprise, he let the cat out of the bag, saying
"...Our place, that of the State Attorney, is to work to lessen discrimination, to take care of and assist the periphery in its lack of equality vis-à-vis the center of the country.”
There it is, for all to read and hear.

One crucial motive behind this government's promotion and funding of Aleh is the jobs it generates. Simply put, the warehousing of our most vulnerable children and adults, their isolation from families and communities, is a boon to the  economically-deprived south of Israel - the Negev.

Which means the welfare of the residents with disabilities themselves isn't a priority. And how could it be? If it were, our government would be supporting and funding their care with their families and in the community with the generosity it now unjustifiably bestows on Aleh.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A glimmer of hope through the thick smoke

From the Aleh website
The smoke is blowing fast and thick from Aleh's PR whizzes.

In the hope of blinding us to the truth - that Aleh warehouses and locks up people with disabilities in large, isolated facilities - they inundate the public with faux-uplifting stories.

From motorcycle demos to soldier visits to lipstick sessions, their residents are being trotted out for inane photo ops that mask the sad reality of their existence isolated from family and community.

Now some of that smoke is being directed my way to my Jerusalem neighborhood. We are being treated [here] to a series of free lectures on various child-care topics. Free cake and coffee is thrown in to maximize the appeal. The lecturers will, for the most part, be employees of Aleh.

These tactics are thoroughly duping Israel's politicians and government agencies. Our Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, regularly trots off to Aleh Negev to inundate it with worshipful words: "You at Aleh are the torchbearers; you cast light on us all..."

Our Ministry of Welfare honors Aleh with awards [here] and its own hyperbolic praise of Aleh's
"world view in which the child remains an integral part of the family, and even more – ALEH is an example of a community-integrated residence..." (emphasis mine)
The greedy tentacles of this ever-expanding monster have nearly extinguished all hope for change in the lives of Israel's citizens with disabilities. But they will not succeed if we continue the struggle for genuine inclusion and equality.
As I typed the above rant, I received the following notification from Bizchut about a grass-roots campaign now underway on social media (translated by me from Hebrew to English):
"'I too deserve to be able to roam around and mess around in the big city. I want to be like you and not like a patient in a special village for people with disabilities. I want to do National Service, I want to take a trip to the Philippines or Thailand. I want a dream job. I want a relationship. That's me.' Tommy Berchanko, a youth [in Israel] with disabilities and a social activist." 
In the last month, tens of similar posts have circulated; posts relating the stories of youths with disabilities and their parents. In a short time, hundreds of people joined the struggle. People with disabilities, their parents, friends and relatives who have decided to shout out their dream, the dream of a full life within the community, with personal assistance for every individual with disabilities. All this is in accordance with the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Israel signed in 2007 and ratified in 2012. We at Bizchut bless and support all the activists and invite you to join them."
 And the group that Bizchut mentioned posted the following on its Facebook page:
"We are a group working to advance legislation that will enable people with disabilities (without distinction between types of disability) to realize their right to independent and supported lives with equality and dignity within the community in accordance with their needs and wishes and with the necessary support to achieve that."
You can read the full manifesto here.

I was particularly heartened by the phrase "without distinction between types of disability". 

Which means, Aleh, your repeated use of "complex disabilities" to denote the children locked up in your institutions just won't cut it. Even they are entitled to live within the community, with their families enjoying true inclusion. Not visits from dignitaries, donors or volunteers - the crumbs of inclusion doled out to Aleh's residents.

So, dear readers, you can now do something concrete to help Israelis with severe disabilities, particularly those consigned to live out their lives in large, closed institutions like Aleh. Join this nascent campaign to propel Israel into the ranks of other enlightened countries throughout the world.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Seeing through the institutions and the smoke-screens

From the manufacturer's website
Today I chatted with somebody possessing inside information about Aleh Jerusalem. I contacted that person regarding Aleh's recent announcement of its launch of a project to equip its residents with Wizzybugs. There's a photo of one over on the right. It comes from the company that developed them.

This is an expensive wheelchair and, as I learned from my source, requires a protracted period of training before a child can operate it. My source told me that several children at the institution have been undergoing such training using a substitute device and that one family had purchased a Wizzybug for their child. And that, dear readers, constitutes the sum total of Wizzybugs at Aleh.

Now here is what Aleh's PR whizzes did with those Wizzybug facts:
  • "At the beginning of November, ALEH, Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, launched a new empowerment project at its residential facility in Jerusalem that provides toddlers with specially-designed motorized wheelchairs, allowing them to take control of their own mobility from the age of one year-old...
  • “We at ALEH believe that every person has a natural right to dignity, the highest quality of life and to reach their fullest potentials. That’s why these brilliant Wizzybug chairs were a natural fit for us,” added Grayevsky. “We are thrilled for all of our amazing ALEH kids who are now benefitting from this exciting project, and we enjoy watching them use this new tool to move their lives ever forward.”. 
Notwithstanding those assertions, I had a strong feeling after reading the PR release and looking past the smoke-screen that Aleh has no more than one Wizzybug on its premises. After all, the photos accompanying the article only showed one. If there were a fleet of them, wouldn't we have been shown it? My source confirmed my suspicions.

I realize this deception is trivial and that harping on it, even as briefly as I have, could be construed as obsessive. But it is emblematic of Aleh's wider attitude towards the truth about children with disabilities.

For instance, their incessant insertion of the word "inclusion" into every item they disseminate. Aleh's approach toward these children and adults is the antithesis of inclusion. Their claims otherwise - as found here - are nothing but "alternative facts".  Likewise their irrational insistence that their large, closed institutions are "home" and their staff "family" to the residents could not be further from the truth. 

Occasionally, their slick PR whizzes slip up as they did here where they concede that the children in Aleh Jerusalem do have real biological families who visited them on Hanukka last week. This just confirms the claims of Lumos that over 80% of all children who have been handed over to institutions throughout the world are not orphans:
"Eight million children live in orphanages and other institutions globally. More than 80% are not orphans but have been separated from their families because of poverty and discrimination." [Lumos]
Many of the these families would not have abandoned their children had they received the government assistance they need and deserve to care for their children. 

Somehow these facts elude the army of supporters that Aleh has enlisted, among them employees and volunteers - and including my source. They tell me that the residents had been neglected by their families and enjoy a higher quality of life in Aleh. They are clueless as to the de-insitutionalized systems of care now pursued in the rest of the developed world. They presume that Israel's choice between quality care and family love is the ideal and the only solution. 

When will enlightenment reach our shores?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The minister needs an education

The Aleh Negev facility: Home?
Recently, my husband met with a senior official in one of the government ministries to discuss matters relating to Keren Malki, the Malki Foundation, the non-profit we together founded in 2001 to memorialize our murdered daughter, Malki.

As the conversation drew to a close, the official praised the foundation's work subsidizing para-medical therapies for children with disabilities who live with their families. But she differed with Arnold on one point: she believes that raising such children is not just a privilege, as he had said to her, but an obligation.

While we do not state our views as dogmatically as she did, I do often wonder how parents who abandon their children with disabilities rationalize that step. What explanation do they give their other children for refusing to raise their sibling? Do they concede "Well, he didn't live up to our dreams and expectations so we decided to dump him in an institution?"

How do they reassure their other children who quite possibly lie awake at night wondering "Will I also be abandoned for getting lousy grades in school? Or for getting into fights with my classmates? Or for being punished by my principal?"

Such ponderings would only be natural.

Despite that senior official's encouraging words the Israeli government persists in entrenching institutionalization in Israel. Today we learned that Education Minister Naftali Bennett visited Aleh Negev on December 4th to laud the establishment there of the first Bnei Akiva branch for children with disabilities.

Please enough smoke in our eyes!

When will this government wake up and smell the coffee? It is alone in the developed world. Its regressive attitudes to children and adults with disabilities have been rejected by other enlightened states. In February 2016, Mr. Bennett visited Aleh Negev, and his praise for the institution matched his words this week. He has had plenty of time to learn of Lumos and its tireless efforts to end global institutionalization; to read the warnings of professionals against the physical and emotional harm that life in large, closed institutions inflicts on its inmates. But he clearly hasn't done so.

His continued  support for Aleh violates the civil rights of citizens with disabilities and is a blight on our society.  Mr Bennett, who clearly hasn't made any progress in the last two years said:
"You, at ALEH, are the torchbearers, and you cast light upon us all – light for the children who need it most, light for their parents, light for all of Israel, and a 'light unto the nations'.” ["Naftali Bennett visits ALEH", December 4, 2017]

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hate, hypocrisy, heartache: Marking my daughter's birthday

Malki and her friends celebrate a birthday party of one of the group on 
August 8, 2001. It's the last photo we have of her. She was murdered
the following day.
Today would have been our precious angel's 32nd birthday, but for the hate and bloodthirst of mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi.

Instead, our family lives with relentless pain and longing while that monster thrives in King Abdullah's terrorist-haven, Amman, Jordan.

Ironically, on this same day - November 27 - Abdullah begins a round of meetings with leaders and members of U.S. Congressional committees including military service, foreign relations and appropriations along with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Vice President Mike Pence.

There is no excuse for this embrace of a terrorist protector, King Abdullah, who since March 2017 has stubbornly refused to extradite Tamimi, the self-confessed mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro massacre despite the official demands of the U.S. Department of Justice. A treaty of extradition was signed and ratified by both countries in 1995.

A state harboring the murderer of fifteen men, women, children and babies, a woman who is one of America's FBI Most Wanted Terrorists, must be punished by the Trump administration and not honored and rewarded.

Meanwhile the Trump White House is outraged over the release by Pakistan of another terrorist, the cleric Hafiz Saeed, and warned
it could damage US-Pakistan relations... [and that] it sends a deeply troubling message about its commitment to fighting terrorism. [Independent UK, November 25, 2017]
Saeed is 
allegedly the founder of a banned group linked to the 2008 Mumbai, India, attack that killed 168 people. He has been designated a terrorist by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. has a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction. He was released before dawn on Friday after a three-judge panel in Pakistan ended his detention in the eastern city of Lahore. The move outraged both U.S. and Indian authorities.  ["White House condemns Pakistan’s release of militant suspect", Associated Press, November 25, 2017]
The White House called Pakistan's move a "step in the wrong direction" and warned it would damage bilateral ties and Pakistan's international reputation around the world. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized that Saeed's release "belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for for terrorists on its soil". 

Here, on the other hand, is what Trump had to say of Jordan's King Abdullah a few short weeks ago in a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly:
"It's a great honor to be with the King of Jordan, who has been our partner and ally for a long time. And I think never has the relationship been better than it is right now... I just want to thank you for everything you've done, in terms of the refugees and taking care of people that -- who knows what would have happened without you. So I want to thank you and I want to thank everybody involved with you, and you have done an amazing job. Thank you." [White House Media Release, September 20, 2017]
On Malki's birthday, please help us publicize this blatant hypocrisy, this infuriating double standard.

Monday, November 20, 2017

On status epilepticus and the status of institutions

With my daughter in hospital
We are currently ensconced in the hospital caring for Chaya, our youngest child.

Twelve days ago, we brought her to her neurologist after a seizure-packed week. By then, she was in true status epilepticus, the apex of epileptic states.

After several minutes in the doctor's office, we were hustled off to the ER where she was subjected to an avalanche of new drugs.

Now, with Chaya showing minimal improvement and barely responsive, we are nearing despair. 

It is telling that we are immersed in caring for Chaya in November – National Family Caregivers Month. Of course, it isn't known as such in Israel but then this is a country that in meaningful ways discourages parents from being caregivers for children with severe disabilities; children who will remain such their entire lives; children who will never be independent, productive adults.

It should surprise no one that we lack a month, or even a week, to salute parents who decide to embrace such children.

In the medical system, my husband and I are often asked "So where does your daughter live?" Our response: "With us at home" is invariably met with a degree of amazement.

That attitude should not be surprising in this institutionalization-friendly state. Generous government funding flows to institutions for each person with disabilities that is deposited there. On the other hand, a mere pittance is allotted to those who opt to care for their offspring with disabilities at home.

This is the way Israel rewards its precious resource of devoted parents. 

I can't think of a more effective means of dissuading parents from keeping their children than that financial policy. In fact, somebody ought to alert Aleh, our largest chain of closed institutions for people with disabilities, that it can hang on to its PR cash. The relentless ad campaign it wages worldwide is superfluous. Institutionalization is a deeply entrenched tradition.

Also coincidentally, the Ruderman Foundation is holding its Summit 2017 this month. Dedicated to the advancement of people with disabilities, the Foundation says the event is intended to:
"bring together 1,000 people from a variety of sectors including: tech, policy, human services, fashion, education, social justice, business, housing, advocacy and more to network and share best practices. Our goal is to inspire, motivate, and arm attendees with the know how to keep up the work of advancing full inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of life. These two days will be packed with over 15 panels and plenaries!"

We wonder how the Foundation reconciles this project with the fact that its website contains an article lauding the work of Aleh institutions (archived here in case it disappears). This baffling promotion of institutionalization has appeared there since 2013 and despite our queries about it of Ruderman officials two years ago, it has not been removed.

So what can you do to shake things up? 

Whenever you hear Aleh mentioned, speak up about the evils of institutionalization and the right of every child - regardless of his abilities - to live with his or another family within the community. 

Point out that all those mawkish tales we read of salvation by Aleh are smoke in our eyes. They are disseminated to shield us from the truth about Aleh's operations. 

More about that blinding smoke in an upcoming post...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Are more terrorists about to be freed by Israel?

Yahya Sinwar, a committed jihadist with a bloody background, was recently appointed head of the Hamas terrorists in Gaza. He was sentenced to 4 life times for terror and murder when Israel released him in the 2011 Shalit Deal
[Image Source]
[A version of this post, under the title "This time, just say no to Netanyahu", was published by Times of Israel on October 30, 2017.]

With the scars of the 2011 Shalit Deal still fresh, we now discover Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu learned nothing from that fiasco.

Six years, almost to the day, after he freed 1,027 convicted terrorists, Netanyahu announced the appointment of Yaron Blum as negotiations coordinator with Hamas - man who as "a member of the small negotiations team" was instrumental in that earlier deal with the devil.

This time around, Blum's goal will be the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 along with two mentally ill hostages who crossed the border into Gaza, in exchange for another mass release of Palestinian terrorists.

As Blum put it (my translation of the Hebrew source):
"In my opinion, since this is a national mission, we are obliged to do everything to bring the boys home so I accepted the position with excitement."  
He was echoing Netanyahu who said upon publicizing the appointment:
“We understand our moral and humanitarian debt to do everything possible to bring them back”  
adding that he was sure Blum would make a “very important contribution to this sacred mission.”

Once again, no red lines. Just buckle to Hamas’ demands.

At that press conference, Netanyahu noted that he had called the families of the Israelis being held by Hamas in Gaza prior to making the appointment and stressed to them his commitment to returning them to Israel. This is reminiscent of Netanyahu and his wife’s two hostings of the Shalit parents prior to the deal’s signing. I don't know if he has or hasn't hosted one or two families whose loved ones had been killed by the prisoners he released. I do know that at the time he falsely asserted to the press - and his staff echoed this to me personally - that he had written to all of them to explain and to comfort. Neither my husband and I nor any one of the dozens of terror victim families whom we asked has ever gotten such a Netanyahu letter.

This chilling deja vu strikes while many of us still suffer from the carnage and injustice that Blum's previous government assignment wrought. (For instance: "11-Sep-14: Freeing terrorists: The price in human lives lost and in justice perverted keeps getting clearer")

A former senior official in the Shin Bet, he has served in recent years as a senior executive in the private sector. He seems to re-surface whenever Netanyahu feels his back against the wall and craves an image boost.

In 2011, prior to the Shalit Deal, it was the social protests that prompted that craving. We learned this from David Meidan, Netanyahu's special envoy to negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit ["Israeli Negotiator: Social Protest Affected Netanyahu's Decision on Shalit Deal", Haaretz, July 24, 2012]. In a closed lecture entitled "Secrets Behind the Shalit Deal" that he gave at Tel Aviv University in July 2012 [reported in "New Info on Shalit Deal Shows, Yet Again, That in the Mideast, Nothing Is as It Appears", Haaretz, July 24, 2012], Meidan admitted that the decision to close the deal was influenced by political considerations.

Netanyahu had been insisting that his approval of the swap was based solely on security and diplomacy factors. Anyone who accused him of harboring other considerations incurred Netanyahu’s anger or even the threat of a libel suit. One exception was his concession to the German newspaper, Bild, that his wife Sara had pressured him to proceed with the mass prisoner release.

(Anybody recall which official position Mrs Netanyahu held at the time??)
Now, of course, it is the threat of indictment that weighs on the beleaguered prime minister. What a god-send it would be for him to win kudos with the return of those MIA's and captives.

The Israeli habit of releasing prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldiers and civilians has always been highly controversial. Intelligence sources (quoted in "‘PM ordered rearrests of dozens of prisoners freed in Shalit deal’", Times of Israel, June 24, 2014) estimate that 60% of those who have been freed in these lopsided deals over the decades have subsequently been imprisoned again for terrorism.

The Shalit releasees are no exception.

In April 2014, a few hours before the Passover Seder, Baruch Mizrachi was shot dead in a roadside attack near Hebron ("03-Oct-17: Released in Shalit Deal, a pious Pal Arab murderer is going back (too late) to life in an Israeli prison"). The 48-year-old Israel Police superintendent was killed by Ziad Awwad, a Hamas operative released in the prisoner swap. Mizrachi was the sixth Israeli to be killed in attacks carried out or planned by Shalit Deal releases. Estimates of how many Shalit releasees are now back in Israeli jails for having engaged in terrorist activities range from the seventies to 120 or more.

Many pundits who were silent prior to that release of 1,027 terrorists minced no words in condemning it after the fact. Here is what the former Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit wrote the day after the Shalit Deal was executed:
Image Source
A first morning after the insanity. A first morning after the hysteria. A first morning after the loss of judgment and the loss of our senses. After 1,941 days and 1,941 nights dominated by kitsch, this morning we are waking up to reality. Opening our eyes and rubbing them to see who we are and what has happened to us. This morning, when Gilad Shalit wakes up in his bed, we can already tell the truth: We went crazy. During the past 64 months, we simply went crazy. Because of the profound and justified guilt that we all felt for one boy and one family, we stopped acting in a reasonable manner. Because of the twisted awareness that we suffered in the era of Channel 2, we worked ourselves up into an emotional frenzy. We reached the point where we are willing to sacrifice hundreds whose names and faces we are not familiar with, in exchange for the one whose name and face have become a part of our lives. We reached the point where we conduct our national affairs like children - without wisdom, without morality and without mature responsibility... ["In wake of Shalit Deal, Israel must return to sanity", Haaretz, October 19, 2011]
Has the Shalit Deal taught us nothing? Are we doomed to awake to another bleak "morning after"? Will we again hand over our lives to Netanyahu to use as political currency?

We could direct Netanyahu to the following excerpt from “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists” published after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S:
Freeze financial assets in the West of terrorist regimes and organizations; revise legislation, subject to periodic renewal, to enable better surveillance against organizations inciting violence; keep convicted terrorists behind bars; refuse to negotiate with terrorists; train special forces to fight terror; and, not least important, impose sanctions on suppliers of nuclear technology to terrorist states.
Netanyahu himself wrote that book. If he meant what he said there, he will stop rewarding Hamas for holding Israeli hostages and start punishing them instead.