Thursday, June 30, 2022

The tiny nation of Israel is making huge strides toward becoming known as a global leader in the field of accessibility and inclusion. A well known destination for accessible travel, Israel also offers fun places and activities that are inclusive, allowing children of all abilities equal opportunities to take part in the same leisure and recreational activities. The Jewish value of betzelem elokim, we are all created in God’s image, can definitely be found in the following unique places to visit that are welcoming to children with special needs.

The Park Chaverim (Friendship Park) is Israel’s first fully inclusive and accessible playground. Park Chaverim is situated within the Ra’anana Park and is open to all. It provides children with different abilities and special needs the opportunities to participate in leisure and recreation activities and to interact with peers using equipment designed to be safe, enjoyable and fun. Park Chaverim’s environment provides stimuli that motivate movement.

Park Chaverim, developed in 2005, was spearheaded by Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s leading developer and provider of innovative therapies and state-of-the-art services for children and adults of all abilities. The uniqueness of the model is the integration of physical accessibility.

Park Chaverim has carousels that can accommodate wheelchairs so that all children can play together. Swings are made like hammocks so that children with weak muscle tone can participate. There is a maze where children can play hide-and-seek. Colorful painted walls of varying heights encourage play acting, helping children with communication issues interact with other children.

A music area allows children to bang on different tubes with attached mallets or with their hands. Wheelchair-accessible sound platforms create different tones, responding differently to movement such as standing, jumping and rolling. And there is a covered play area arranged like a clock so that children with visual impairments can orient themselves to where each piece of play equipment is located.

Park Chaverim has become the model for many other inclusion parks around the world. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3NnmUhh.

ToMo Candy workshop, established in 2018, is another fun and colorful place to visit. Located at 19 Ha’haroshet Street, Ra’anana, ToMo Candy is a private family-owned business that makes beautiful, delicious, Kosher LeMehadrin (supervised by the rabanut of Ra’anana), gluten free, vegan friendly rock candy. Visitors of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in one-of-a-kind interactive candy-making workshops and experience the fun of creating their very own candies.

“Our activity is definitely also suited for children/adults with special needs and can definitely be done with both kids/adults with special needs and others without doing it together,” said Tony Morris, owner of ToMo Candy, named for his young son Tom (“Tomo”).

During the workshop, participants see and actively take part in the fascinating process of candy-making. Workshops begin with the first stages of pouring the candy on the table, progressing to coloring the candy, cooling and kneading the candy, stretching the candy, construction of the candy, right up to the final stages of cutting the candy, packaging and branding—and of course, tasting the candy. Visitors construct their very own lollipops in different shapes and together as a group construct unique candies with a shape inside. Each workshop participant can take their lollipops and two jars of candies prepared during the workshop home.

Workshops take place in Hebrew or in English according to the reservations made in advance. Workshops are approximately 90 minutes in length.

For more information: https://www.tomocandy.com/

[email protected] (+972) 525-468920

Mosaics by Miriam, located in Neve Daniel, 20 minutes south of Jerusalem and 30 minutes from Beit Shemesh, offers inclusive workshops suitable for all ages and abilities, individuals, groups and families. Here you can create beautiful pieces of artwork and amazing memories. Children can work on their own projects if they are not interested in working on the family project.

What started as Miriam Gottlieb’s hobby soon flourished into a studio providing workshops, classes and commissioned art. The owner shares her passion for the art of mosaics, making the experience fun and educational for her visitors. “I have some personal experience working with kids with special needs but no formal training,” said Gottlieb. “It is important to me to work with each workshop participant to help guide their art to be a reflection of their ideas.

Mosaics is a modality that can be adapted to individuals with special needs, enabling them to use their creativity in a hands-on experience that will provide them with a fully finished product for them to cherish and feel proud of. The great thing about mosaics is that anyone can take something broken and make something beautiful.”

Workshops are currently available for small or large groups, outdoors when possible, and take approximately three hours. All materials are provided. Options include custom-designed family projects and individual projects for children and adults. Gottlieb has also introduced mosaic workshop at-home kits, where you can enjoy hand-crafting a beautiful piece of artwork in the comfort of your own home.

To schedule a workshop and for more information: www.mosaicsbymiriam.com,

WhatsApp: 054-3063454 or email:
[email protected]

The Israeli Children’s Museum in Holon is another great destination for families with children with special needs. The museum has a variety of programs, and the content of the activities is age and ability/disability adjusted with consideration of the recommendations of the educational staff. The experience the museum offers is unique and created by guides who introduce the visitor to the story, the narrative and the sensory experience. The guides have experience working with people with special needs and the tours are held in small groups so that the encounter creates high-quality interpersonal communication. Children with special needs are accepted and empowered to be active and express themselves in their own unique ways.

For more information: https://www.childrensmuseum.org.il +972-3-650-3000

If consulting a tourism company is suited to your needs, check out Israel4All. Established in 1998 by Eli Meiri, the top expert in this field, Israel4All is an Israeli tourism company for people with disabilities and special needs. Meiri believes that the world is an open road and that people with physical limitations and special needs should have the same opportunities as those who are able bodied. With Israel4All, you can travel Israel, visit amazing sites, meet extraordinary people, taste and feel the sights and sounds of an accessible Israel for all. Itineraries and activities are tailored for the specific needs and requests of individuals and groups.

For more information: https://www.israel4all.com/ +972-3-5188188, 050-661-4455

Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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