The amazing wall-crawling spider-mayor!

Nir Barkat rappels down Old City Walls for World Disability Month.

December 29, 2011 23:50
2 minute read.
Barkat rappels down the wall of the Tower of David

Barkat repelling 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)


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Throughout history, conquerors have rappelled down the Old City walls on their way to lay claim to a besieged city. But Thursday was the first time Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, joined by a dozen children and adults with disabilities, bounced down the wall of the Tower of David Museum. Their goal wasn’t to hoist a new flag over Jerusalem’s walls, but to prove that disabilities do not stand in the way of physical obstacles, in honor of World Disabilities Month.

Thursday’s event featured a zipline across the courtyard and rappelling from the 20- meter high balcony near the Tower of David. The event was organized by Etgarim (Challenges), an organization that provides programming and outdoor extreme activities for 1,500 kids and adults with physical and mental disabilities.

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The event was also organized by the National Insurance Institute through the Fund for Development of Services for People with Disabilities.

Nati Gruberg, the Israeli hand-cycling champion who will represent Israel at the 2012 London Paraolympics, joined Barkat for the first rappel down the walls. Gruberg said that, despite competing in grueling races such as the Tour de Israel, the rappel wasn’t the easiest thing because he suffered from a small fear of heights.

Still, Gruberg said, he was glad he did it.

“We really need more support for the handicapped in Israel,” said Gruberg on Thursday. “These challenges give us support and a push, which is exactly what we need.”

Gruberg, who was in a motorcycle accident in 1999 that left him in a wheelchair, added that some of the areas around the Old City had greatly improved their handicapped accessibility in recent years, but that much more work is needed to make Jerusalem more accessible.

The Jerusalem Development Authority earmarked NIS 5 million for making the Old City more accessible.

“The city is constantly changing and growing, and the municipality feels committed to making the city’s buildings, gardens and streets accessible to its entire population so that all people can use and enjoy public property,” Barkat said in a statement released by his office.

Etgarim works across the country and organizes scubadiving trips, bicycle rides, hikes, rappelling and other extreme adventures. It also helps teenagers with special needs draft into the army.

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