Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Nalaga’at (“Please Touch” in Hebrew) complex, located in the port of Jaffa since 2007, offers visitors an experience unique in many ways. Containing several venues, Nalaga’at is the only cultural and creative center of its kind in the world when it comes to integrating people with hearing and vision disabilities. Its stated values of openness, tolerance and acceptance of difference in others and in ourselves are put into practice every day and have earned the complex international recognition and created real societal change.

Nalaga’at Theater is home to the only theater groups and ensembles in the world whose actors are deaf, blind or deaf-blind. Over the years, the theater expanded its repertoire, with new original productions featuring actors who are deaf-blind, deaf and blind, alongside actors who are seeing-hearing. CEO Oren Itzhaki said, “People from around the globe come to our theater for the refreshing taste of a truly different cultural experience, while international professionals derive inspiration and seek to learn more about this unique sociocultural model.”

The BlackOut Dark Restaurant offers an unconventional experience of a multisensory dining experience in the dark. It is the only darkness restaurant in Israel and one of only 14 restaurants in this style that operate around the world. It is also the only kosher one among them, being a kosher dairy restaurant with fish, under the kashrut of the Rabbinate of Tel Aviv. BlackOut Dark Restaurant operates on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday with two services. Diners say goodbye to the sense of sight for a short time and immediately feel how the other senses are sharpened and strengthened in absolute darkness. The waitstaff, all blind and visually impaired, lead guests inside and serve a selection of pre-ordered dishes or surprise dishes that the diners try to identify, in the dark. The menu is created by chef Moshe Hajai, and the menu reflects Jaffa and the port’s surroundings.

Also part of the Center is Kapish Event Center, where waiters who are deaf and hearing impaired invite guests to communicate in Israeli sign language (ISL). The spacious, adaptable site hosts a variety of customized boutique events for the business, public and private communities, encouraging guests to learn about deaf culture and practice ISL. These events include conferences, family gatherings, product launches, bat/bar mitzvahs, weddings and more.

The Workshop Center gives visitors a new perspective about what it is like living in a world with a sensory impairment. Workshops, led by content experts and a team of deaf, blind and deaf-blind, hearing impaired or visually impaired instructors, include offerings such “Sign and Dine,” “Sound and Music in the Dark,” “Clay Sculpting in the Dark” and “Chocolate Tasting Workshop.”

Nalaga’at also hosts educational programs that extend its reach by traveling to schools and preschools. These programs bring age-adapted enrichment programs to both children and educational personnel.

Other initiatives include the Festival for the Groundbreaking Arts, launched in 2017; music shows in the dark and the Center for Performing Arts Studies. Nalaga’at, in collaboration with Kibbutzim College of Education, opened Israel’s first educational center for the performing arts for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.

Nalaga’at was established in 2002 by Adina Tal and Eran Gur, with the purpose of integrating people who were deaf and blind into society, giving them the opportunity of self-expression and advancing their aspirations to contribute to society. It enables and advances equal and open dialogue to promote the needs and aspirations of every person in the belief that all human beings are equal.

Nalaga’at presents an innovative model in every facet of integrating people with disabilities in society, and provides an equal stage for meeting between deaf, blind and those that are both deaf and blind and the wider public.

“The Nalaga’at Center is a nonprofit organization, channeling all its resources toward preserving its uniqueness as a cultural center, enhancing its social message and serving as a leading place of employment for deaf, blind and deaf-blind individuals,” said Itzhaki.

“Since its inception, the Center has welcomed more than a million visitors. Thanks to its unique activities, the Center has won a range of prestigious cultural and societal awards, including the Genesis Prize, courtesy of violinist Itzak Perlman, and an award for generating societal impact from the global Fair Saturday Movement.”

Through direct and informal contact with people, Nalaga’at strives to create true change in society, while serving as a model for integrating people with disabilities into society, in Israel and the world.

For more information: https:nalagaat.org.il, [email protected], +972-3-6330808

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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