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.

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