Tourism unbound

Though there’s still a long way to go, the Tourism Ministry is now allocating NIS 15 million yearly to upgrading accessibility.

June 3, 2010 15:39
2 minute read.
Disabled tourist at Western Wall

DisabledTourist311. (photo credit: .)

This is in excerpt of a feature article from this week's issue of the "Magazine".

When my mother visited in December 2006, nobody had any idea that something was wrong.
She and my father stayed at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem, just a 15-minute walk away from the apartment my wife and I were renting near the German Colony. But they didn’t mind. They were happy to walk. It seemed they would do it all day, every day, as they waited for us to come back from work.
My mother loved to shop. For some inexplicable reason she would hit the same Judaica stores on Rehov Ben-Yehuda each year – despite the fact that their selection never seemed to change. She would be there for hours, going back and forth, comparing prices, joking with the owners, until she would finally settle on something, which, given the time and effort it took to find, inevitably looked extremely small: carved metal Shabbat candle holders, Kiddush cups, halla covers – and all, without fail, for friends or family. Although she later described my father as the “worst person to go shopping with,” he would always be with her.
And she would be with him when they went to the sites that he always wanted to revisit. The Western Wall was one of his favorite spots, Mahaneh Yehuda, as well – there was one place there that, he says, sold the best sweet halla – and, on occasion, day excursions outside of the capital.
I found it amazing how, year after year since I made aliya in 2003, they could come and continually act like first-time tourists. After three years, I figured the routine would just go on forever.

But it didn’t.
It was the beginning of January 2007 when they got back to New York from another trip here. Two months later my mom was confined to a wheelchair – permanently, according to many doctors. They called it paraneoplastic syndrome, an extremely rare disease which, in certain cases, wreaks havoc on the central and peripheral nervous systems, and ultimately makes it impossible to walk, eat independently or talk coherently.
The weeks following the diagnosis were a fog of emotion and uncertainty. But coming so soon after their trip, at least one thought was clear: They would never be able to visit the country again. How could they, after all? Managing in a place they had lived for a quarter of a century would be hard enough, but traveling by plane across an ocean, to a land which, at first glance, doesn’t appear to be the most disabled friendly – it seemed an impossibility.
But it’s not impossible, either for them or for any other wheelchair-bound tourist. And last month, when the pain of separation – both from the country they loved and from my growing family – had finally become unbearable, they discovered just how feasible such a trip was.

This is in excerpt of a feature article from this week's issue of the "Magazine".

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