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It’s Hard to Run to a Bomb Shelter When You Are in a Wheelchair

by Michelle K. Wolf

November 16, 2012 | 5:30 pm

Earlier this week, I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about this weekend and there were so many good topics to pick from.

There was our son, Danny, with significant disabilities, celebrating his almost-18th birthday at Fairfax High School and loving all the attention and gooey chocolate cake. Or the banquet Wednesday night celebrating the merger of Etta Israel Center in Los Angeles with OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services of New York, ushering in more and needed residential and day programs for Jewish adults with developmental disabilities.  And I am still glowing from getting to meet in person the four beautiful young women from the Sundance Channel reality series “Push Girls” at the Disability Rights Legal Center dinner last night.

But the videos of those incoming missiles into Israel forced me to re-think what was the most pressing issue, so here we are, having to visualize people in wheelchairs, or who use walkers, some young and some old, having to rush off to bomb shelters when they hear the sirens, scared to death they won’t make it in time.

When we were in Israel this summer as part of the Special Needs Study Mission sponsored by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, we visited Ayalim, a project in the Negev for college-aged volunteers who commit their time and sweat equity to build villages, improve the local community and work at family centers. As part of the project, they included six young adults with physical disabilities. In order to ensure the safety of those young adults they built their caravans extra-strong, in case they couldn’t get to the near-by bomb shelters.

Another place we visited in southern Israel was Aleh Negev, a village/campus in the middle of the desert for children, teens and adults with severe multiple disabilities. Created by the charismatic Major General (Res.) Doron Almog for his own son, and others in similar situations, Aleh Negev is a model program, filled with compassion and the highest-quality care. They serve children with severe disabilities all over Israel, but residential facility in the Negev is home to 135 residents, with 150 staff members and hundreds of volunteers.

One of more heartbreaking notes I wrote during the summer mission was this: “Staff takes all the residents at Aleh Negev twice every day to the bomb shelters for a short time, so when they get the incoming missile warning, they will feel comfortable going and staying there.”

This is what is on the Aleh Negev website today:
“The entire village has been at high alert since Wednesday afternoon, when air-raid sirens began sounding with increasing frequency…Aleh’s cadre of devoted caregivers have been working under extreme and difficult conditions.  Many have left their homes to spend extra hours at the village taking turns in shifts to ensure that everything is under control; others have brought their own children to Aleh Negev to ensure their safety.  The groups of Sherut Leumi (National Service) girls have demonstrated dedication above and beyond the call of duty, choosing to sleep overnight in the village to help residents. “

May there be peace again soon.

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