Photo Credit: courtesy, Grabski Center / Colel Chabad
Soaring high above in the sky with the Omega Wheelchair Ride.

A group of 60 physically disabled adults is celebrating the recent relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, because it meant they were able to go out of their rehabilitative residence as a group for the first time in nearly a year.

The outing, organized for the residents of the Grabski and Finger Centers for Multiple Sclerosis operated by Colel Chabad, was described by the organizers as a “first taste of freedom after what has been an extremely challenging few months.”

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All of the residents are bound to wheelchairs and suffer from different degrees of neurological disease making the concept of being home-bound and staying safe that much more challenging.

Accompanied by 90 staff members, the group set off to the Jordan Valley Village, a fully accessible park complex in the Lower Galilee, where they were able to partake in recreational activities not typically available to them, including rides on horse-drawn carriages, an omega line specifically outfitted for wheelchairs and other sports and art programming.

“Since early March of last year, almost our entire daily focus has been on keeping our residents safe and ensuring that they wouldn’t be directly impacted by the virus; but now we felt the has come for them to enjoy the release they so needed and deserved,” said Koby Vizel, Director of the Grabski Center in Migdal HaEmek.

“They were on cloud nine, and literally soaring through the sky. It was an incredible sight to see; we were all left feeling a sense of high at the end of the day.”

Rabbi Sholom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running social services organization since 1788, said, “These are individuals who face daily challenges and are unable to enjoy what the rest of us take for granted, even during a normal time.

“This past year for them, having been safely closed off from the outside world in order to protect them from this deadly virus, has been extremely difficult. We were all hoping and praying that this day would come as soon as possible,” he said.

The day, generously supported by the Meromim Foundation, culminated with a concert from one of Israel’s most popular music stars, Yishai Ribo, who performed exclusively for the group.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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