A group of young adults with Bridges for Peace .
(photo credit: Courtesy Nicole Jansezian for Travelujah)
For further information on Christian tourism and Holy Land Tours to Israel contact Travelujah.
Not too far from the Old City and just across the valley from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial sits a center that typically doesn't appear on a tourist's list of places to see when visiting Jerusalem.
But Shalva, the Association for Physically and Mentally Challenged Children in Israel, is where real life occurs for hundreds of Israeli families on a daily basis.
Each day, Shalva bustles with hundreds of children who arrive for various programs where they receive professional care, love and important life skills to help them integrate into Israeli society. Though unknown outside of Israel, Shalva is a beacon of hope in Jerusalem lauded by national leaders such as President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
For visitors to the Holy Land, a trip to Shalva presents an opportunity to see real life in Jerusalem and - for those interested in hands-on work - a chance to volunteer in the midst of dozens of children.
Just this year, several Christian groups either visited or volunteered at Shalva joining the thousands of Jewish tour groups from abroad that have already learned about this hidden gem nestled in Jerusalem's hills.
One such group was a team of young adults from around the globe who came to Israel through Bridges for Peace.
"It was such an honor to serve, and a whole lot of fun connecting with the people at Shalva, helping out in every way we could, and of course playing with the children," said Canadian Peter Fast. "It was a blessing and an eye opener to see the fruits of such an incredible organization and what they have accomplished and the hearts they touch on a regular basis. Go Shalva!"
Another organization from the United States, Kim Clement Ministries, didn't just visit, but brought its own musicians to play with Shalva's dedicated band of teenagers with special needs in an inspiring and emotional performance. Kim visits Shalva
from Kim Clement
Yossi Samuels, who is blind and deaf and today considered the Hellen Keller of Israel, was the inspiration behind the creation of Shalva. After experiencing the struggles and challenges of raising a child with special needs, the Samuels were determined to ensure that the best care be available to Israeli families in similar situations. In Hebrew, the word shalva means "peace of mind." That is Shalva's mission - to provide peace of mind to families learning to cope with the intricacies of caring for their special needs child.
Shalva's programs include the after-school center five days a week, respite sleepover once a week, weekend respite every four weeks, a daycare and the Mommy and Me program for parents and their infants, as well as the summer day camp and sleep away camp. Shalva not only helps the child reach their full potential, but enables the parents to get back on their feet.
All of Shalva's programs are provided to the children and their families free of charge.
Shalva was recognized by the State of Israel as one of the best-managed not-for-profits in the country.
Tourists may come just for a visit of the facility. Alternatively, opportunities to volunteer at Shalva, include a one- or two-day program that would involve organizing the closets in the respite center, cleaning and disinfecting equipment and toys, and sometimes lending a hand with the children in the daycare and after-school programs.
Language is not an issue as most of the staff is bilingual and some of the projects will not require verbal communication with the children, except for the universal language of love. Even without words, love is constantly communicated and it is precisely this love that exudes from the staff at Shalva that makes it such a special place.For more information visit Shalva's website. To arrange a tour of Shalva or a volunteer day, contact Travelujah-Holy Land Tours.Nicole Jansezien works at Shalva and is a guest contributor to Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. People can learn, plan and share their Holy land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.