Arab-Jewish special needs village offers coexistence model

September 8, 2009 10:32
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres.

President Shimon Peres.. (photo credit: ap)

The first community for Arab adults with special needs will have the cornerstone of its first building laid Tuesday by President Shimon Peres. Aside from being the first of its kind, the village of Alfanara will be built next to Kishorit, a community for Israelis with special needs.

Kishorit, founded in 1997, is located just north of Karmiel and is home to 150 people with physical, emotional or mental disabilities.

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After a realization that having Arabs and Jews together in the same village wouldn't be cohesive, the Jewish and Arab staff worked together to come up with a new model. The one they settled on was two separate living quarters where the Arab staff, volunteers and members will be able to speak their own language, eat their own food and celebrate their festivals in their own way.

Dita Kohl-Roman, the director of resource development and marketing for the project, believes that by creating two separate cultural environments that will be next to and open to each other, Arabs and Jews will be able to live side by side.

The project will see the members of both villages work and spend leisure time together. They will work together on the community's goat farm, dog kennels and wooden toy factory, with all proceeds going to help fund the project. Kishorit also receives a government stipend for each member and is being given a grant towards the building of the new village.

Kohl-Roman told The Jerusalem Post that the project fit in well in the Galilee.

"We are surrounded by a lot of Arab villages so they are all expecting it, they all want it. It gives them hope that a universal need can be fulfilled," she said.

Kishorit helps adults with special needs live an integrated, normal life where their limitations are taken into consideration and they are given challenges and responsibilities to maximize their independence. As part of this, members are encouraged, where possible, to take a job on the Kibbutz, and 97 percent of the Kishorit members elect to do so, she said.

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