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24 Apr, 2010 05:19

Middle East’s only humane asylum for disabled

For twelve years Jewish Israelis with physical, emotional and mental disabilities have lived in Kishorit in northern Israel, the only known village of its kind in the Middle East.

In Kishorit, colony residents live and work the land, they share the income, and as far as possible run their own affairs.

Based on the kibbutz model of community living, the village offers them a stab at real life – like Kishorit resident Yochanan Beyth, who has lived here for five years and anchors a monthly show on the village’s television station.

“If Kishorit was not here or if I was not in Kishorit – it’s a hard question during your life, you do not know what can happen to you and that’s it, but it’s good that Kishorit is alive and here,” Yochanan Beyth shared.

It took four years for Kishorit to be built and today it boasts the country’s largest organic goat farm, dog kennels and a wooden toy factory.

But nothing like it exists for Arabs with special needs – despite real attempts to accommodate them.

Marketing and resource development director of Alfanara project, Dita Kohl-Roman, says that “The Arab community will probably wish to have separate living for men and women unless they are married, which is a different custom and a different way of life which we would like to respect. When we have tried to have Arabs within Kishorit we asked these Arab people to conform to our ways of life: to our food, to our Jewish holiday celebrations, to our everyday life and what we want is actually not to impose that.”

Which is why staff members have decided to build an Arab village next door. The concept is the same and residents from both villages will work together with the ultimate goal of combining them.

“Most of the places for people with special needs in Arab society are closed hospitals, I can call them prisons,” revealed Karim Rafa, director of Alfanara’s Arab special needs village. “So this village is the first one for Arab people with special needs in Israel, we will be like Kishorit. This village will give them a new and better life than they live today.”

Shadi Husari is completely dependent upon his parents. He was born mentally and physically disabled and sits at home all day. His father says an Arab village catering especially for his son’s needs would be a lifesaver.

“We dream about a village like that for our son. Shadi has never been out of our home and I am scared about how he would react in the outside world. But a village like this would give him the chance to live a normal life. We want him to get married and have children,” Yosef Husari told RT.

At a time when prospects for peace between Jews and Arabs seem so distant, these villages offer an example of what is possible when people talk, and dream.