Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aleh: Blowing smoke

Not a parody: a genuine smoking ad [Image Source]
Aleh is "promoting" inclusion.

Ouch. Just typing that sentence felt painful and infuriating. Its irony is reminiscent of the cigarette advertisements that were common during the early 1900's. Some of them featured doctors urging the public to smoke specific cigarette brands to benefit their health. My own mother, usually tense, was encouraged in 1959 by her doctor to continue smoking during her pregnancy with my brother "to calm herself".

In that same vein, we now have Aleh, champions of the institutionalization of people with disabilities, launching a photographic exhibition last week [here] with the claim that it "highlights the importance of acceptance and inclusion".

At the risk of sounding tiresome and repetitive, I will clarify:
Institutions like Aleh's  - the largest such chain in Israel - are the epitome of EX-clusion and rejection. Hiring a professional photographer to capture artistic shots of  residents of those institutions doesn't change that incontrovertible fact. 
Last week a protest organized by Bizchut was held outside Neve Ha'irus, the institution housing 130 that has been accused of scandalous abuses and violations of human rights [see my earlier posts]. Not one news source reported the event. That omission speaks volumes about the state of de-institutionalization in Israel.

Prior to the protest demonstration, one news station did send an undercover journalist to Neve Ha'irus as a job applicant for a position as caregiver. Despite having no experience in the field, he was hired.

He learned disturbing facts about the treatment of the residents both from observation and from fellow employees that included:
  • an intolerable stench in some of the buildings
  • brass beds with misfitting mattresses forcing residents to sleep curled up
  • closets containing nice, new clothes that are removed, according to staff, only when a resident receives visitors
  • toilets without seats
  • bathrooms without soap because, as the administrator explained, "there are some who would put it in their mouth". So nobody sees to it that their hands are cleaned either before or after meals
  • dirty sinks and toilets
  • common toothbrushes for all
  • parents are never admitted to the buildings; only visit their children outdoors.
  • much "dead time"; one resident tells the reporter he'd "like to work"  
  • complaining staff members are penalized via their work schedules
Perhaps the most baffling finding is that the Ministry of Welfare hands Neve Ha'irus 10,000 shekels per resident every month and is responsible for "supervising" its operation.

Bizchut is demanding the immediate closure of this institution until an independent supervisory body is established to replace the clearly incompetent Ministry of Welfare.

Hebrew speakers can listen to the report via YouTube.

Back to Aleh:

All the dangers of institutionalization apply there too. The PR release accompanying the photo exhibition states:
"A quick glance at the photographs would not reveal the difference between these children and others, and that is exactly the point that the exhibition is trying to make: individuals with disabilities have an equal place in society and should be accepted just like anyone else."

They most certainly should! Acceptance means enabling them to live in the community and with either their own or other families; NOT warehoused within large closed institutions.

Here is our sweet Chaya at home (on the right) in an engaging pose I caught by chance.

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