My husband and I attended a meeting this week at the invitation of the social worker in the community department of a leading social action group. We met with several other individuals variously connected to people with disabilities either through family or work relationships. It was a group of insightful, concerned and compassionate people sharing the goal of getting a new law passed in the Knesset that will greatly benefit people with disabilities.
We brainstormed about the approach that should be taken to galvanize public opinion in support of the law. It would empower people with disabilities - or in the case of those profoundly impaired, their families - to decide which government assistance they will receive and where they will live. The authorities would only override those requests that are utterly unfeasible. Currently, the circumstances of their existence is determined by "the powers that be" without their/their families' input.
This social action group has enlisted the cooperation of some twenty other Israeli organizations in conducting an intensive Internet and media campaign in advance of the upcoming Knesset committee hearing where the draft law will be considered. They anticipate significant opposition - yes, even in the 21st century - to this patently reasonable and long-overdue law.
The social worker who convened the gathering has already conducted a similar meetings of people with disabilities and shared some of their ideas with us too. She noted that none of them felt like pathetic victims and they all urged incorporating humor into the campaign.
Needless to say, the law would enable my husband and me to receive government subsidies towards Chaya's therapies here in her home. Right now, having turned 21 and ended the schooling part of her life [see "For our children with special-needs, nothing is ever enough"], she receives no paramedical therapies other than those I myself do with her,
Clearly this campaign will be an uphill battle. The Israeli public is unaware that the status quo here is far from ideal. If they are not entirely indifferent to this, people seem to believe that Israel's citizens with disabilities are cared for in an exemplary manner. And why shouldn't they? Most of our leaders and mentors are outspoken proponents of our status quo, including, of course, our prime minister and our latest winner of the esteemed Israel Prize, Doron Almog [see "Cultivating the Negev on the backs of the most vulnerable Israelis"]. Both tout the largest chain of institutions here, Aleh, ad nauseum.
And on a Rosh Hashana note, here is what Aleh told its donors in its holiday mailer. Following its hotline phone number for donations, and a detailed daily schedule of the children who are confined to its institutions, it declares in huge letters:
1,000 shekels is the average daily cost of every one of the 700 children in AlehOh, really? And that's cheaper than funding the care of such children at home? I could enlist an army of elite professionals to help me out here with a daily subsidy of that magnitude.