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January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
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Faces of Israel: Yariv Vizner, Founder of ‘Little Heroes’

Little Heroes or 'Giborim Ktanim' pairs ordinary Israelis with mentally challenged children with the goal of helping such children to better fit into Israeli society.
Yariv Vizner

Yariv Vizner

Though a defense attorney by trade, Yariv Vizner always had a dream to give back to the community. When he was a child his mother volunteered and assisted with the mentally challenged  so he enlisted his son Adam to help him in starting an organization called Giborim Ktanim (Little Heroes) consisting entirely of volunteers who work to pair ordinary Israelis with mentally challenged children, with the goal of helping such children to better fit into Israeli society.Giborim Ktanim collaborates with over 20 schools in Israel to provide children with  the opportunity to go on trips throughout Israel. “There are children that don’t communicate with society and people don’t understand them, yet here on these trips people understand them and relate to them,” says Yariv. Since many of these children come from disadvantaged backgrounds; these trips may be their only chance to do something like this.

One of the things that Giborim Ktanim prides itself on is helping mentally challenged children to feel like they are part of Israeli society, even if they are unable to do what most other children their age can. Giborim Ktanim also seeks to help prepare mentally challenged children to learn a trade, so that they can support themselves when they grow up, yet also seeks to protect them from being exploited. One such job that mentally challenged adults in Israel often take on is being bus boys at Aroma, a popular Israeli chain of cafes.

In addition, Giborim Katanim seeks to support mentally challenged children by providing the skills necessary to have a Jewish life, despite the fact that mentally challenged children are not capable of being honored by being called up to the Torah or having a Bar Mitzvah. Giborim Ktanim arranges special Bar Mitzvahs at the Kotel for mentally challenged children, providing them with that crucial step in the life of every young Jewish boy.

Another way that Giborim Ktanim helps mentally challenged children to become part of Israeli society is to give them the support that they will need in order to be able to serve in the Israel Defense Forces where they serve despite their disability. “The army is the best school to teach them to be better citizens,” Vinzer said.

The families of these children are very appreciative of the work that Giborim Ktanim does. Vinzer stated that when he arrived at the Kotel to witness a group of mentally challenged children receiving their Bar Mitzvah, he saw one father of one of the children cry “because it was something so important to him that his child standing there can be a part of something like that. It is something very emotional.” He continued, “For me, it is something that I can’t forget, even though it is the twelfth time we did it at the Kotel.”

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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."


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