Deaf-blind celebrants feel Purim spirit at unique party

Beth David Deaf-Blind Center holds annual Purim fest in conjunction with Jerusalem’s Association of the Deaf in Israel.

February 26, 2010 03:10
2 minute read.
Participants enjoy a costume competition on Monday

deaf purim 311. (photo credit: Mark Rebacz)

They couldn’t see or hear, but that didn’t stop some 30 deaf and blind celebrants from enjoying a unique Purim party in the capital on Monday night.

The Beth David Deaf-Blind Center, located at the Helen Keller House in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliahu neighborhood, held its annual Purim fest in conjunction with Jerusalem’s Association of the Deaf in Israel.

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The party was lively and interactive, as many attendees came in costume and had good spirits in anticipation of the approaching holiday. In addition to the 30 deaf-blind individuals, 40 deaf people attended the party, which included a professional dance performance, a pantomime show and a costume competition.

The center, the only organization that is dedicated to assisting the nation’s deaf-blind people, routinely hosts celebrations for holidays and other special occasions.

Monday’s event was attended by Jerusalem councilman Pepe Alalo, who told the crowd, “Just from walking in you can feel your warmth, your friendliness, and your talent... You are wonderful.”

The event was conveyed, as are all communications to the deaf-blind, through tactile sign language. This form of communication, known as interpreting, is carried out by a sighted individual signing what he sees, while a deaf-blind individual holds the hands of the signer. In this case the interpreters were deaf, and acted as the “eyes” of the deaf-blind, relating through touch what was taking place on the stage.

The interpreters were able to convey everything from a short speech about the Purim story, to the dance performance, in which the interpreters tried to mimic the movements of the dancer for the benefit of the deaf-blind.

The 30 deaf-blind attendees constitute just a small fraction of the country’s 1,200 deaf-blind individuals. The Beth David Center, which has been operating since 1989, provides an array of assistance and activities for these seriously disabled individuals. The organization offers services to both the Arab and Jewish sectors, with some events combined, helped by the fact that Arabs and Jews in Israel use the same sign language.

According to Elias Kabakov, director of the center, many of these people do not have the ability to work or attend sheltered workshops, bound by their inability to communicate with the outside world. Their chief pastime is conversing, so much so that at many events, said Kabakov, the participants prefer free time over programming so that they can talk with their friends.

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