This project, aimed at strengthening Jewish community connections, kicked off on May 28, 2013 with the landing in Israel of a mission from Montreal, Canada. The mission’s members consisted of residents of Miriam Home for the developmentally-intellectually challenged, their counselors and members of the administrative staff. The visitors to Israel represent a portion of the extensive Miriam Home treatment apparatus, which supplies a response to thousands of Jews in Montreal afflicted with intellectual-developmental disabilities.
The goal of the project was to connect between Jewish communities, generate social connections and give individuals with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to see Israel. The connection between Miriam Home and the AMI Association, which also treats individuals with intellectual-developmental disabilities, was initiated as a joint undertaking of the city of Beer-Sheva, Partnership-2-Gether, the Jewish Agency and Federation CJA—in an attempt to find a common denominator between the two frameworks.
Throughout the mission’s stay in the region, its members were closely accompanied by AMI’s director of culture and leisure. (Tours that involved the Miriam Home administrative staff only were accompanied by AMI’s chairman, CEO and administrative staff.
Aside from the events described in the attached report (below) there were other highlights of the visit; these include: A meeting between the mission’s administrative staff from Canada and the administration of the Ministry of Social Affairs – the division for the treatment of intellectual disabilities; a tour of Hadassah
Mt. Scopus Hospital, including a meeting with Prof. Tanenbaum, director of the special department for research into Down’s Syndrome; a visit to Aleh Negev in the Western Negev; and a visit to Beit Issie Shapiro in Raanana.
The mission from Miriam Home landed in Israel on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. The mission was received by representatives of the AMI Association, who gave each of the visitors a bag containing: a timetable for the visit, a small gift, a map of Beer-Sheva, an ID tag, a hat and an army shirt.
A bus from the Hamovil Hadromi company picked up the members of the group. On their way to Beer-Sheva they took a break for lunch and then proceeded to their first destination, Beit Yatziv in Beer-Sheva, arriving there at 3:30. In the evening, at
6 p.m., the visitors were welcomed in a festive reception given by representatives of all parties involved in the project: the city of Beer-Sheva, Partnership-2-Gether and the AMI Association. That same evening represented the first opportunity for residents of AMI and Miriam Home to get acquainted with each other.
May 29, 2013 – Morning 1 in Israel. The mission’s members traveled to the IDF Paratroop Corps base in Shomria where they were received by the kitchen manager accompanied by a number of intellectually challenged individuals employed by the base. The visitors toured the base, worked together with AMI residents, and enjoyed a communal lunch with the base’s soldiers. The goal of the trip was for residents of the two organizations to work together and give the visitors a chance to get acquainted with the Israel Defense Forces.
Following the visit to the base, the mission continued on to the Air Force museum where they viewed an exhibit of various aircraft. During the guided tour it was discovered that the uncle of one of the residents actually smuggled one of the planes in the exhibit into Israel. When the tour was over, the mission’s members returned to Beit Yatziv to relax and rest for a while. While the group rested, members of the
administrative staff travelled for a meeting with the staff of AMI. At the meeting, the two sides exchanged information on the running and functioning of these two special needs frameworks. In the evening they were given a guided tour of Beer-Sheva, led by Malka Reisner, director of the municipal office for external relations.
May 30, 2013 – Morning 2 in Israel. After breakfast at Beit Yatziv, the mission traveled for a guided tour of the Cochin Jewish Heritage museum in Nevetim. During the tour it was explained to the visitors the meaning of ‘aliyah’, the connection of Jews to Israel, and how new immigrants deal with their new lives in Israel. Following the museum visit, the mission traveled to Sde Boker, where members were hosted in Ben-Gurion’s cabin. From there they proceeded to Ben-Gurion’s grave where they learned about the man, his vision, and how the state of Israel was able to make the desert bloom. After lunch at Sde Boker, the mission’s members traveled to the Alpaca Farm; there, they learned how such a farm was able to be established in this arid region and how the farm has succeeded in continuing to exist. From there, they traveled to a Bedouin tent for authentic Bedouin hospitality that included dinner and an explanation of Bedouin life in the Negev. After a day full of desert experiences, the mission’s members returned to Beit Yatziv to sleep overnight.
May 31, 2013 – Morning 3 in Israel. The mission’s members traveled for a day of fun at Neve Midbar spa, spent together with AMI residents. Both groups splashed around in the spa’s assortment of pools followed by a delicious and pampering lunch. After the meal, the visitors returned to Beit Yatziv in order to rest in the afternoon. In the evening the two groups reunited in order to take part in a joyful Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony.
June 1, 2013 – Shabbat, and morning 4 in Israel. The morning was spent resting in Beit Yatziv and enjoying the swimming pool on the premises. In the evening members of both groups had great fun at a disco party. (At the party a strong connection developed between two of the residents—one from AMI and one from Miriam Home J)
June 2, 2013 – Morning 5 in Israel. Trip to Masada including a tour of the site. Later, the group travelled to the Hod hotel for lunch and a fun day spent poolside on the Dead Sea. In the evening, they arrived in Jerusalem and stayed at Beit Yehuda hotel for dinner and overnight.
June 3, 2013 – Morning 6 in Israel. Jerusalem – breakfast at Beit Yehuda followed by a trip for a guided tour of the Israeli Knesset. When the tour was over, the group continued to the Great Synagogue. While the group toured the Knesset, members of the administrative staff travelled for a meeting at the municipal social welfare department. Later, the entire group had lunch at the Shipudei Hagefen restaurant. After lunch, there was a trip to the Bloomfield Science Museum followed by a tour of the Old City and the Wailing Wall. When the tour was over, the group returned to the hotel for dinner.
June 4, 2013 – Morning 7 in Israel. Breakfast at Beit Yehuda hotel followed by a trip to the Haifa Educational Zoo. This was followed by lunch at the Castra artists’ shopping and entertainment center. After lunch, a tour of Acco – the Hospitaller Fortress and, towards evening, visits to Bayit VaKit and the Ghetto Fighters Museum followed by dinner and overnight.
June 5, 2013 – Morning 8 in Israel. Breakfast and Bayit VaKit followed by a guided tour of the Ghetto Fighters Museum. After the tour the group travelled to Rosh Hanikra where they boarded a cable car and toured the local caves. Following the visit to Rosh Hanikra the group traveled to Zefat to tour its synagogues. After Zefat, the group traveled to Tel Aviv, their overnight destination. After getting organized at the hotel, the group had dinner at the Hatachan Train heritage site.
June 6, 2013 – Morning 9 in Israel. Breakfast at the hotel followed by an outing to the flea market in Jaffa. While the group walked around the market, the administration staff traveled for a meeting at Beit Issie Shapiro. When the tour of the market was over, everyone met for lunch at Hazan restaurant in Jaffa. After lunch the mission’s members travelled for a guided tour of the Diaspora Museum followed by returning to Beer-Sheva for dinner and overnight at Beit Yatziv.
June 7, 2013 – Morning 10 in Israel. This was a fun day spent at the Grand Canyon shopping mall in Beer-Sheva. After a relaxed day of shopping, the mission’s members returned to Beit Yatziv to rest for a while; in the evening, they hosted their counterparts from AMI for a joint Kabbalat Shabbat celebration.
June 8, 2013 – Morning 11 in Israel. Shabbat: the mission’s members rested at Beit Yatziv and enjoyed lounging around the swimming pool. In the evening everyone attended a karaoke party in order to say farewell to AMI’s ‘independent living’ residents.
June 9, 2013 – Morning 12 in Israel. Breakfast at Beit Yatziv followed by a day of joint activity with AMI residents at the Zoological Park. The mission’s members enjoyed a guided tour of the park and worked together with their Israeli friends. This was followed by everyone sitting down to eat lunch together. The next destination was Beit Yatziv for some afternoon rest. While the group rested, the administrative staff traveled for a meeting to sum up the visit with the staffs of AMI, Partnership-2-Gether and the city of Beer-Sheva. In the evening, following dinner at Beit Yatziv, an emotional farewell party was held at the Cohen house. At the party songs from different eras were played and photos taken during the Israel trip were screened to the delight of everyone at the party.
June 10, 2013 – return to Canada. During their tours across Israel the mission’s members were graciously accompanied by Karin, AMI’s director of culture and leisure. Moreover the visitors enjoyed tasty treats throughout the day—cold and hot beverages, snacks, ice cream, popsicles, MacDonald’s (which they specially asked for) and more.
In the conversation for summing up the visit, the mission’s directors said they were thoroughly satisfied with their stay in Israel. Among the superlatives thrown about were comments on how this was a dream visit that wildly exceeded all expectations. The Montrealers invited the Israelis visit Canada within the framework of a reciprocal visit.
This report was written by Karin Fahima from the Ami association.
The Beit-Miriam mission is a joint effort under the leadership of two long time leaders of our Partnership: Samuel Dergel from Montreal and Rina Ramot from Beer-Sheva.