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July 30, 2016 / 24 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘special’

A Special Summer Camp in Israel

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Summer can’t come soon enough for kids with special needs and their parents. Thanks to Seeach Sod, Israel’s leading center for special education, children with special needs have access to the services and support that they need to flourish, all year round.

Seeach Sod was founded by Rabbi Dov Levy z”l, who had a child with Downs Syndrome before there were any services or awareness about special needs. With nowhere to turn, he established Seeach Sod in 1971 to provide a religious educational framework for his son and other children with special needs.

Understanding the importance of schedule and routine for kids with special needs, Seeach Sod extends the school year, by creating a special camp experience for the kids for an additional three weeks in August, right after Tisha B’av.. Sue Lachman, mother of Seeach Sod student, Refoel Lachman (14), knows the importance of structure all too well. “He loves going to school,” Mrs. Lachman said, “But we decided to give him a day off and take him fruit picking with his nephews. We thought he would like it but he went berserk because he just wanted to be in school.”

To make sure that kids stay grounded, Seeach Sod handcrafts the summer program to make sure that each participant is being stimulated, challenged and supported according to his or her needs. The Kaytana (summer camp) takes place from 8AM-4PM every day with participants ranging in age from 5 to 21 years old. With special art projects, local trips and outings, “We make sure camp has all of the approaches that are perfect for each participant. Each week we do something fun and unique with different types of trips” Chaim Hirshman, Group Home Men Division Manager revealed. To accommodate higher-functioning special needs people Seeach Sod is highlighting a 5-day camp in Mitzpe Yericho, and features a Shabbaton, jeeping, roping, boating, sports and many other thrilling activities.

It’s an incredible amount of work but it pays off. “We organize three weeks of fun so they will return rejuvenated and ready to face the New Year,” Hirshman said. For most schools, end of year signifies a mark of growth for students. At Seeach Sod, the camp is their litmus test. “During camp time, we see how the residents are changing, growing and improving,” Rabbi Dovid Levy, Director of the Welfare Department and son of Rabbi Dov Levy z”l, said. “It puts them in an amazing mood. Additionally, when we see that when they are in a good space, their physical health is better. It impacts the entire year. Each year, we analyze the results and try and improve upon them the following year.”

Early on, Seeach Sod recognized that a crucial part of their work is to provide parents with a respite in order to rejuvenate and ensure they have the strength and energy to be fully present with their children. One of the ways they do that is with their Nofshon Respite program. If a parent needs to go away for a few nights, they can bring their child to the respite center, which functions like a mini-hotel, where they sleep over and spend their days doing activities and trips.

There are 15 nights during the year when parents can send their kids to the nofshon. “The fact that Refoel can go to the nofshon where we know that he’s safe is important,” Mrs. Lachman said. “During the summer, the staff works to give the parents a true break.”

“During the summer camp period, Seeach Sod adds extra staff so kids can go straight from kaytana to nofshon and parents can get a break,” Hirshman explained.

“He loves going to the nofshon. They take him out and do fun things with him,” Lachman added, “They have it all set up for us so that summer isn’t too difficult, which is wonderful.”

The summer program is so successful that other kids feel a bit left out. “The parents tell us that the other kids in their household are wondering why they don’t have these kinds of activities,” Rabbi Levy claimed. “So this year, we are offering each Seeach Sod resident to invite their siblings and family and spend a fun-filled day at a huge park with us.”

Knowing how hard they work, Seeach Sod also organizes a day of fun for the summer staff. “It’s not simple. They are working all the time while everyone else is on vacation and these aren’t easy weeks of work,” Rabbi Levy explained.

For the Lachman’s Seeach Sod’s dedication is not a surprise. “Everything they do is really special. They truly love everyone,” Mrs. Lachman said.

With a full heart, Seeach Sod staff creates unforgettable experiences for kids with special needs. “The smile that we see at the end of the summer is worth all the hard work,” Rabbi Levy said. “This gives us and the children the energy to start again from the beginning.” With Seeach Sod, summer is now something to look forward to for everyone.

For more information about Seeach Sod visit their website at: http://charidy.com/seso

Jewish Press Staff

Tamar Yonah Show – Jerusalem Day Special: How It Was 50 Years Ago [audio]

Monday, June 6th, 2016

What was Jerusalem like when it was divided only 49 years ago? Tamar speaks with Shifra Hoffman from www.VictimsofArabTerror.com and talks about the miracles of the Six Day War, which saw the liberation and re-unification of Jerusalem.

Tamar Yonah Show 05Jun – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Jerusalem Day Special: Ancient City’s Latest Facts and Figures

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

In honor of Jerusalem Liberation Day, which is being celebrated on Sunday, June 5 this year (because Israeli holidays go by the Jewish calendar), the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has issued a plethora of stats about the city, gathered in the years 2014-15. So, here’s a sampling of everything you may have wanted to know about the tangible Jerusalem of this world:

Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel. By the end of 2015, there were bout 870,000 residents living in the eternal city, roughly 10% of Israel’s population.

Compare this with 2014, when Jerusalem boasted only 850,000 residents, out of whom 534,000 were Jews and others (63%) and 316,000 Arabs (37%).

Out of the Jews of Jerusalem, 32% define themselves as ultra-Orthodox, 17% are religious, 13% traditional-religious, 15% traditional but not so religious, and only 21% are secular.

Of those additional 20,000 residents, about 19,800 were added via natural reproduction, about 3,700 moved in from the rest of the country and from abroad, and about 3,500 left to other locations.

The main sources in Israel of migration to Jerusalem are the cities of Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv, and B’nai B’rak. Jerusalemites who leave the city go to Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv, and the enclave of Givat Ze’ev which borders Jerusalem.

The overall fertility rate (average number of children a Jerusalem woman is expected to bear in her lifetime) in Jerusalem is 3.91, far higher than the national average of 3.08.

A Jerusalem average household has 3.8 members, also larger than the national average of 3.3.

On the work front, though, Jerusalem could improve a lot: only 51% of Jerusalem residents are counted in the work force, compared with 64.1% nationwide. This does not necessarily mean folks in Jerusalem don’t work for a living, it could mean more of them fail to report.

Jerusalemites don’t like to commute: 88.4% of the city’s working residents are employed in their city, compared with 71.7% in Haifa, 62.2% in Tel Aviv, 57.2% in Ashdod, 44.4% in Petach Tikvah, and 36.2% in Rishon L’Tzion.

Jerusalem retains its residents: a full 77% of them have lived in the city for more than 20 years.

While 57% of Israelis nationwide are satisfied with the size and proportion of green spaces in their cities, only 30% of Jerusalemites believe they have enough parks.

In the school year 2014-15, 65.5% of Jerusalem students were in Haredi educational institutions, compared with 65.3% in 2013-14. This trend has continued persistently, as the number of ultra-Orthodox students is going up and secular students’ down.

In related statistics: fewer than half (48%) of 12th grade students in Hebrew education institution took the matriculation exams in 2013-14, compared with 51% the year before. This means that more than half of the city’s young people are eligible to attend college.

Also related: Jerusalem registers the lowest average annual income out of Israel’s eight largest cities: $37,944.36.

As for housing, 57.9% of Jerusalem residents own their apartment or home, 30.9% rent, and the rest live in school dormitories or rent paying a key fee (one high amount up front, followed by small monthly payments). The average price for a Jerusalem apartment is $484,026.34, the average monthly rent is $826.12.

Regarding visitors: 78% of tourists who arrived in Israel made sure to visit Jerusalem (the rest, mostly Scandinavians and Germans, presumably landed directly on Eilat’s magnificent beaches down south).

Close to 900,000 foreign visitors spent a night in Jerusalem’s hotels, marking close to 3,000,000 nights altogether.

JNi.Media

Daniel Mandel: The Joy, the Lone Oak, and a Special Torah Scroll

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

{Reprinted with permission from the Israellycool website}

Thirteen years ago, on April 15,2003, Lt. Daniel Mandel, of the Nahal Brigade, was murdered by a terrorist. Only three weeks later, Daniel’s sister gave birth to a son. Daniel’s mother Cheryl told the young parents, “Don’t call this baby ‘Daniel.’”

Cheryl’s son in-law said, “No one is going to tell me what to call my son.”

The boy was named Gilad, a name which, when sliced in two (Gil and Ad) means “eternal joy.”

His name was like a show of faith, a symbol. This was a family that would grow and continue in spite of an enemy’s hate. There would be joy in spite of the harsh blow dealt them. There would be this son. And there would absolutely be joy.

Thirteen years have passed since that sad and terrible Passover Eve, thirteen years since Daniel’s young life was stolen away forever. Now it is time for Gilad, the boy who came to life in the wake of an uncle’s tragic death, to celebrate his bar mitzvah. This is a boy with the weight of a family legacy on his young shoulders. A boy who must (and does) bring joy.

Just as Gilad’s birth and name are symbols of hope and continuation, joy and eternity, so is the famous Lone Oak Tree that stands as the very symbol of Gush Etzion where the Mandel family and Gilad live. This famous tree is hundreds of years old and remains at the center of a story of bravery and longing. The story begins only a few short weeks before David Ben Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel.

Back then, Gush Etzion consisted of four kibbutzim. The families who lived there were under constant siege by the Jordanian Legion and by Arab guerrilla fighters. As the British Mandate was winding down to its inglorious end, the attacks became a near-constant fixture of life in the Gush. It was decided to send the women and children of the Gush to Jerusalem to wait out the war. It simply wasn’t safe for them at home any longer. Around 130 men and a small number of women stayed behind to defend their homes and all that they had built, hardscrabble, with their own two hands.

Just three days before Ben Gurion’s declaration of statehood, the Gush Etzion defenders were overpowered by the Jordanian Legion.  The Jordanians gathered the fighters together, claiming they wanted to take a photograph of the rout for posterity. Instead of photographing the group of defenders, the Jordanians murdered them in cold blood: shot them dead.

Gush Etzion had come under Jordanian control.  But once a year, the families of the Jewish fighters who had been so cruelly slaughtered, would gather on a high hilltop in Jerusalem where they could see the Lone Oak Tree in the distance, that 700-year-old-tree. That tree meant everything to them. Reaching that tree, returning and rebuilding the Gush, all of it was tied up in the symbolism that was embodied by that one lonely tree.

Lone-Oak-Tree-1068x801

Finally, in 1967, during the Six Day War, Gush Etzion returned to its rightful owners, the Jewish people. Today, instead of four kibbutzim, there are 22 communities and a total population of over 70,000 people: men, women, and children. The Lone Oak Tree watched it all unfold, remaining steadfast, and most of all, there, where we yearned to be, until we too, were there.

It makes sense then, that the Lone Tree and Daniel Mandel and Gilad have had their fates intertwined. Gilad has begun to lay tefillin, Daniel’s tefillin (phyllacteries). And in order to commemorate the 13th year since Daniel’s murder, his parents are dedicating a Torah scroll in Daniel’s name, to the Sephardi synagogue they attend.

It is from this Sefer Torah that Gilad will read his Bar Mitzvah portion, continuing a link in the chain of the Mandel family in Gush Etzion, and bringing joy to his people, never forgetting the great sacrifice of his Uncle Daniel, HY”D, may God avenge his blood. The new Torah scroll, and Gilad’s bar mitzvah bring everything full circle for the Mandel family and in many ways, for the people of Gush Etzion.

Lone Oak Torah Cover by Batsheva Arad of Bat Ayin.

Lone Oak Torah Cover by Batsheva Arad of Bat Ayin.

Already, the last letter was inscribed in the scroll, since one doesn’t write letters on Pesach. And on Wednesday of this week, on Chol HaMoed Pesach, at 4 PM, the Mandel family will hold a dedication ceremony for the new Torah scroll. That is when everyone will see the beautiful Torah cover created by Batsheva Arad who lives in Bat Ayin, a community in Gush Etzion. The Torah cover depicts the Lone Oak.

Then too, the crowd might notice the wooden rollers of the Torah, each known as an “Etz Chaim” or “Living Tree.” These rollers are also filled with symbolism, made as they were of wood trimmed from the Lone Oak Tree, and lovingly crafted by Gidi Kelman of Neve Daniel,  also a community in Gush Etzion.

Cheryl, Daniel’s mother and Gilad’s grandmother, is expecting a crowd. She had 200 labels made up, depicting that Torah cover with its stately Lone Oak. The labels are for the 200 water bottles purchased for celebrants at the dedication ceremony (she hopes you’ll be among them).

18 Boys Named Daniel!

Cheryl didn’t want Gilad’s life to be forged in mourning in the shadow of his uncle’s death. And so she wasn’t prepared for him to be named after her murdered son so soon after his death. But here too, there is parity and meaning. Thirteen years on, there are exactly 18 babies who have been named Daniel, after Daniel Mandel. Eighteen as you probably know or might have guessed, is the numerical value of Chai, the Hebrew word for “Life.”

Because the Lone Oak still stands and life goes on in Gush Etzion. There may be times of sadness and mourning, but joy will always win out in the end.

 

Varda Meyers Epstein

Aliyah and Keeping Young with Yisrael

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

As an education writer for the nonprofit organization, Kars4Kids, and as someone who made Aliyah from Pittsburgh 34 years ago, I decided to write about the challenges of Aliyah from western countries with school age children. See the previous piece in this series, Fully Absorbed, Coming Through to the Other Side.

As a teen, Randi Lipkin spent three consecutive summers working at HASC, a camp for Jewish children with special needs. Randi’s husband Michael spent his nineteenth summer as a counselor there, and the couple both worked at HASC one summer after they were married, never knowing that someday, they would have a special needs child of their own.

The Lipkin family made Aliyah in August of 2004, with four children from Edison, New Jersey. After they made Aliyah, Randi discovered she was pregnant with Yisrael, who has Down syndrome.

Michael serves as senior editor of financial articles at a local company, Seeking Alpha. Randi is an occupational therapist who works at a “Gan Safa,” a Beit Shemesh nursery school for children with developmental language delays. The Lipkins live in Beit Shemesh.

Proud father Michael Lipkin holds newborn Yisrael Simcha (photo credit: courtesy Michael Lipkin)

Proud father Michael Lipkin holds newborn Yisrael Simcha (photo credit: courtesy Michael Lipkin)

V: Tell me a bit about your children and their adjustment to your Aliyah.

Michael: We had 4 children when made Aliyah. They were 19, 17, 14, and 3 when we moved. Our oldest, one year post-seminary, was our big Zionist and would have moved here even if we hadn’t. Her adjustment was very smooth. She married a year and half later and is now living in our neighborhood with her husband and 3 children.

Our next oldest was borderline interested in moving. As she was entering her senior year in a Flatbush Beit Yaakov the year we made Aliyah, we decided it was best for her to finish high school there while boarding with Randi’s sister who lived nearby. She subsequently came here for seminary, married soon after, and is living in Bet Shemesh with her husband and 3 children.

Our older son had the toughest adjustment. Even though he wanted to move he had a difficult time adjusting to dorm life at Maarava high school. However, he is now our most integrated child having married an Israeli girl and is currently serving his country.

Our youngest at the time adapted very well because of her young age and smarts.

V: How old were you and Randi when Randi became pregnant with Yisrael?

Michael: I was 47 and Randi was 45. We had just had our first grandson and our second daughter was married during Randi’s pregnancy.

V: How did you and Randi feel about the pregnancy? How was the level of obstetric care here compared to the care Randi received in the States during previous pregnancies?

Michael: I was ecstatic, very excited, but nervous for her. Getting pregnant at that age was nervous-making, and of course, we worried about Down syndrome.

Randi: The overall care here was fine, but I found it very weird that you develop a relationship with a doctor and then he has absolutely nothing to do with your delivery. The experience was totally different than in the states. In certain ways the doctors seemed very laidback and in other ways hyper-nervous.

I had gestational diabetes as I’d had before in my previous pregnancies. The doctor transferred my entire case to an obstetrician that handles gestational diabetes and I at one point said to the doctor, “Can we listen to the heartbeat?”

They were too focused on the diabetes. There was far less connection to me as an expectant mother compared to what I had experienced in the States. Of course, I’d had tremendous relationships with my doctors in the States, because I’d known them for 25 years. It’s just not what you have here.

Since I was having an elective, planned C-section, we paid for a private doctor instead of showing up at the hospital and just getting whoever was on duty that day and we felt very comfortable with that decision.

V: I know you gave Yisrael the middle name “Simcha” because you wanted him to always know he brought simcha, joy, into your lives. Was that immediate? Or did it take some adjusting to the idea?

Varda Meyers Epstein

Creme De La Creme: How the IDF Picks its Most Elite Units

Monday, August 12th, 2013

After another round of nationwide enlistment, the time has come to find soldiers for the Israeli army’s most elite units. In order to be selected among the truly great, soldiers must pass intensive examinations – both mental and physical. We approached Major Danny Ben Dov, the man in charge of physical selections and unit placement for infantry and paratroopers, to learn what it takes to be listed among the best of the best.

elite7 You’ve heard about the units: the Yahalom combat engineers, Duvdevan – the unit responsible for conducting undercover operations against militants in urban areas and Oketz – the elite canine special forces unit. Behind these special units lies a complex placement process. Whether you want to curl up with a German Shepherd, maneuver an advanced UAV, or operate behind enemy lines – the path to achieving this goal is laden with potential pitfalls.

elite5

In recent months a new slew of soldiers has reached bases across the country in order to begin their basic training. However, before they could finish lacing up their military boots, practicing telling military time, and getting ready for their first shifts of guard duty, the IDF transfers a select few for special assignments reserved for the very best.

Most units open their doors to potential new recruits, however these young soldiers should take time to seriously consider the proposal, as beyond the acceptance are arduous physical and mental tests specifically designed to push the soldier to the limit.

For those looking to find the secret key to acceptance into these coveted units, the head of physical selections for IDF special units explains which features and attributes assist in weeding out the weak and singling out potential candidates.

“I am responsible for approving all units’ selections based on physical criteria in the IDF,” said Maj. Ben Dov. “Certain elite units have particular standards and requests for potential soldiers. They require special characteristics and have a very specific screening process for accepting soldiers into their units.”

However, contrary to what one might think – that all elite units have the same selection criteria – Maj. Ben Dov clarifies that not all unit classifications and soldier requirements are identical to one another.

“The placement of each soldier is chosen based on the nature of the unit itself and the type of combat soldier the unit is looking for,” explained Maj. Ben Dov. The process itself is intricate and includes discussions with the unit’s commanders as well.

“The commanders build their selection process by consulting with us, and then we go through the military’s professional instructions and general requirements,” said Maj. Ben Dov. “Part of the varying features we look for are determination and motivation.”

Though physical requirements come most immediately to mind when discussing elite combat units, Maj. Ben Dov maintains that physical strength is not the most significant part in the selection process.

“During the selection process, there are sprinting exercises, lifting exercises and other physical tests, but the main thing is not so much the physical part itself,” he said. “We are looking to see the person after the physical aspect, following these tests. There are all kinds of thinking exercises and lengthy discussions, allowing us to see the candidate’s abilities to think quickly and express him or herself clearly.”

Maj. Ben Dov summarized by explaining that throughout the entire selection process, it is imperative for one to be true to his or her personality traits. “It is important for potential examinees to come prepared both physically and mentally, but most important is to be your true self, because, through the various exercises, we eventually peel through the false stories and get to the true nature of the soldier.”

IDF Spokesperson's Office

Third Time this Ramadan – Tomb of the Patriarchs Desecrated by Muslims

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

For the third time this month of Ramadan, Muslims visiting the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron have desecrated Jewish religious objects at the site, tearing the Mezuzahs off the doorposts and stealing them. They took advantage of the special visiting privileges the Muslims receive from the IDF during the month of Ramadan, during which, on Fridays and a few special days, the Tomb of Patriarchs is open only to Muslims.

Local police announced they have arrested two Palestinians in connection with the vandalism, but are still searching for the thieves. The act was recorded by surveillance cameras. A member of the Waqf was nearby during the act of vandalism.

In response to the repeated attacks, the site management has decided to limit the access of Palestinians. Muslims aged 18 – 35 will not be permitted in on the special days allocated to Muslims only. Further actions are being considered to prevent these attacks in the future.

Following the previous attack, Member of Knesset Orit Struk, a resident of Hebron, told Tazpit News Agency: “The Arabs used the opportunity they had on Friday to desecrate the Mezuzot. We cannot be silent about this incident. During the 700 years of Muslim occupation, the Tomb of the Patriarchs was completely closed to Jews. Today, when the State of Israel is considerate of Muslim holidays and permits them full use of the site – they exploit it to harm Jewish symbols. I expect the Muslim leaders in Hebron and Israel to apologize to the Jewish People and condemn this heinous episode.”

Aryeh Savir, Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/third-time-this-ramadan-tomb-of-the-patriarchs-desecrated-by-muslims/2013/08/04/

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