Itzik Shmuli, MK and Minister of Welfare arrived in Bet Shemesh on Tuesday, August 18, 2020 and visited Ezrat Achim’s “moadonit” (Center for Special Needs Children), along with the mayor of Bet Shemesh, Dr. Aliza Bloch and a large group of city and government officials. Shmuli was clearly moved by his visit to what is currently one of the only functioning day camps for children with Special Needs in the entire country, and was impressed by the tremendous efforts that Ezrat Achim invested in following all of the complicated Corona guidelines put in place by the Ministry of Health.
The special camp attracted the attention of the Welfare Department of the Beit Shemesh Municipality which tried to do everything to help and enable the camp to take place. Mayor Dr. Aliza Bloch also was personally involved in the cause, and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli, who is heavily involved in helping and assisting special education institutions, announced that he wanted to go down and see with his own eyes the ‘great wonder’ that he had heard about.
The Minister of Welfare was the special guest of Mayor Bloch, who guided him on a short tour of the city, the highlight of which was the visit to Ezrat Achim’s moadonit. When they arrived at the center, the founder and chairman of the organization, Rabbi Avraham Kop was there to greet them. Kop, who founded Ezrat Achim with his own two hands, has been leading the organization’s extensive charitable activities for over two decades.
The Minister of Welfare and his entourage, the mayor and her entourage, as well as the special education commissioner, Advocate Rina Hollander, together with the director of the municipality’s welfare department, Gila Ronen, all appeared to be highly impressed by the wonderful activities at the camp and the obvious delight on the faces of the children who clearly were having a wonderful time.
“Each group of children is placed in a ‘capsule’,” Rabbi Kop explained. “The capsule system was designed by the Health Ministry and ensures that the children in each group do not come into contact with children in any of the other groups at any point throughout the day. The children in each capsule are picked up from their homes in separate vans, with dedicated volunteers who accompany them from home to camp, serve as their counselors during camp hours and then accompany those children back home in our vans. The complete separation between one capsule and another is maintained in accordance with the Health Ministry’s guidelines and is designed to prevent potential cases of Covid-19 that could, God forbid, pass from one group to another. ”
The Minister of Welfare, Itzik Shmuli was visibly moved by the warm welcome that Kop received from the special children with whom he has a personal relationship. The minister sat down on the floor next to a group of special needs girls, and talked with them for a long time. He seemed to find it difficult to contain his excitement.
The bulk of the attention during the visit was captured by Suri, a girl with Down Syndrome. The mayor, Dr. Bloch, asked one of the girls in the room for her name, and she replied that her name was “Chana”. Dr. Bloch replied that her own daughter is named Chana as well. Suri delighted the visitors when she spontaneously began to sing a well known Hebrew song about a girl named Chana.
Some of the visitors wondered how it is possible to run a center for special children in a residential apartment building, without the neighbors expressing opposition to it, as has unfortunately occurred in various places throughout the country.
They received their answer soon enough! As they exited the building, some of the neighbors from the upper floors noticed the commotion below and recognized the Minister of Welfare and the mayor. They called down from their balconies and thanked Minister Shmuli for coming. One man told him that he feels it is a tremendous privilege to live in the same building in which such an amazing service is provided for Special Needs children. The minister praised him for his positive, warm attitude, and willingness to welcome children with special needs into the building on a daily basis.
“I saw here today the power of volunteering and giving to others,” the minister said at the end of the visit. “It was a spectacular day that I will not soon forget. The ‘Ezrat Achim’ organization should serve as a model not only for the city of Beit Shemesh, but for the entire country of Israel.”
Mayor Dr. Aliza Bloch summed up the tour: “It was exciting to come with the Minister of Welfare to the Special Needs Center run by Ezrat Achim and to hear one of the residents of the building call out to the Minister to share with him how proud he is to be a neighbor of this amazing organization’s moadonit. The Minister was very moved by this…”