Today I visited the “pioneers” of all inclusion programs in Israel at Beit Issie. Beit Issie aims to fulfill the needs of people with special needs of all ages and backgrounds, change the views of people in the community towards those with disabilities, and conduct research in the effectiveness of programs for people with special needs. It was really amazing for me to hear about where they started, with vision and determination, and how far they have come over the last 32 years. They give me hope for a bright future with the dance therapy program that I want to start in the Boston area.
We started off the day by packaging Pesach gifts for IDF soldiers as a way for Beit Issie to give back. I enjoyed talking with the many women who were also volunteering and come to Beit Issie on a weekly basis to help out. After we were done with our volunteer work, we were given an extensive tour of Beit Issie’s amazing facilities. One especially interesting facility is their Snoozle Room. This room is a therapeutic way for children with special needs to exercise all of their senses in a very relaxed way. The room is white with different types of changing lights, ball pit, water bed, and much more. Of course, Beit Issie is home to many more great facilities and programs that you can read more about on their website at http://www.beitissie.org.il/.
During my tour of Beit Issie what really stood out to me was their drive to have children with special needs included in their communities. They started an initiative of creating parks in Israel that are available to both children with handicaps and children without so that they can play together and make connections starting from a very young age. Beit Issie expanded on their idea of inclusion even more by creating a handicap character, Sivan, that will appear on Sesame Street soon and several of their facilities (i.e., pool and dental office) are open to the Ra’anana community. It was great to connect with a program that has similar goals of integrating people with special needs into the community.
I am now in Jerusalem and will be visiting two more special needs programs tomorrow. Can’t wait to share my experiences with you!
Dance, move, and empower,