(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dozens of children with special needs, from Eilat and surrounding areas, come regularly to the therapeutic riding center at Kibbutz Grofit. Horseback riding improves motor skills and posture and helps overcome communication problems through relationships with horses. No less important, children particularly enjoy the physical activity in the open air.
Kindergarten classes, pupils from schools for youngsters with special needs and families with special-needs children, all come to the Center, which, however, is not designed solely for youngsters: adults, too, enjoy its amenities. The oldest rider is eighty years old, a Holocaust survivor who attends the center regularly.
The well-tended farm stands on the site of what once was the kibbutz's stable. KKL-JNF has been involved in its establishment from the outset, helping to prepare the land, to provide shady nooks with tables & chairs and a children's play area - donated by the Cohen family of Israel - and to build broad paths for wheelchair and walking-frame access.
Today, too, KKL-JNF continues to provide help in the form of grants to children whose families cannot afford the farm's amenities. These funds, from JNF America, enable 180 children and adults to attend the center every week.
KKL-JNF has also established a well-shaded sitting area on the hillside for people walking up or down from the kibbutz to the farm. Farm Director Rafi Osomo, himself a member of Kibbutz Grofit, attaches great importance to this shady spot: "Kibbutz children can walk to the farm now without having to wait for someone to give them a ride, and this strengthens our connection to the kibbutz."
Rafi says that groups of schoolchildren come to the farm for a full day's study, which includes riding, a visit to the farm's petting zoo and a variety of nature-related activities. "The classrooms that have been built here provide a convenient venue for these activities," he says. "Things have been specially planned with the stables right next to the classrooms, so that the riders can feel close to the horses."
Therapeutic riding instructor, Adi talks about the special relationship that develops between the children and the horses: "It's very touching to see how the children bond with the horses. This communication helps them in other areas of their lives. Some children get very attached to the particular horse that they always ride, while others simply enjoy the exercise in the open air."