Some 100 protesters, including a dozen in wheelchairs, gathered across the street from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry in Jerusalem on Thursday to convey their anger over a recent ministry decision affecting five young people with disabilities.
The demonstration was organized by Bizchut, the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities.
In 2007, after years of refusal by the ministry to provide small, community-based living arrangements for the disabled, families of five disabled children in Jerusalem petitioned the High Court of Justice, arguing that the denial of such accommodations was a violation of their human rights.
Eighteen months ago, the High Court ruled that the ministry must provide a community-based setting that houses no more than 24 residents. A month ago, the ministry complied with the order by offering the children residence in a hostel in the Jerusalem Arab village of Beit Tsafafa.
The families and Bizchut contend that this does not constitute "living within the community" for Jewish Hebrew-speaking young people. Moreover, since there are no bus lines to the village, community volunteers from Jewish neighborhoods, who are mainstays of other such initiatives, would not be available.
An hour into the demonstration, a ministry official, Nahum Ido, came out to the protesters and heard their gripes. maintained that there will "always be dissatisfied families." and that the rejection of the Beit Tsafafa option is "racist."
He said the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo is in "walking distance," and could provide a pool of volunteers.
However, after some 30 minutes of discussion with Lerner and with Chana Levi, the mother of two of the disabled children, Ido promised to try and convince his superiors to make a true community-based offer to the five children, promising to respond within a month.