Yes they can

Nechama Rivlin hosts annual ILAN event at President’s Residence.

Reuven and Nechama Rivlin with children at the WIZO shelter. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Reuven and Nechama Rivlin with children at the WIZO shelter.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
ILAN, the Israel Foundation for Handicapped Children, has found a champion in First Lady Nechama Rivlin.
Rivlin, who hosted ILAN activists, volunteers, graduates and children at the President’s Residence on Tuesday, recalled that she became acquainted with the organization through her late mother-in-law, Rachel Rivlin, who was a long-standing address for clothing and other items to be sold on behalf of ILAN, or brought to disabled children and their families. She was also the address for financial donations and gifts for ILAN children.
ILAN Director Shimon Tzurieli noted that ILAN Chairman and former MK Ehud Ratzabi together with Zvi Oren, the president of the Israel Manufacturers Association, and Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissankorn had been responsible for drafting the bill adopted by former finance minister Yair Lapid to make it compulsory for government organizations and institutions to make 3 percent of jobs available to people with disabilities.
Stormy weather notwithstanding, some 200 people came to the event that was kicked off by a rapper performance by wheelchair-bound Gil Kahlon, 16, backed up by X Magal singers and dancers from Kibbutz Magal, which has a center for children and adults suffering from cerebral palsy and similar problems. Kahlon wrote the song, which emphasizes that focus on people with disabilities should be on what they can do, not what they can’t do.
Quoting poet Leah Goldberg who wrote of what distances people from each other, Nechama Rivlin explained that differences in skin color, faith and even disabilities tend to alienate people from each other. This has no real meaning, she said. “It’s only a mask to hide the fear of something strange and unknown. This is the vehicle that enables us to hide without attempting to know....” She noted the difficulties that many people with disabilities have in joining the mainstream workforce. Stressing the importance of integrating people with disabilities into the workforce, Rivlin said that it was essential for them to feel that they were making a contribution to society and that they were part of society.
She was glad that the government had decided to recognize the difficulties encountered by people with disabilities who want to be employed, and that it had obligated public bodies to employ them.
People with disabilities were also among the employees at the President’s Residence, she said, “and we hope to absorb more of them.”
Ratzabi, who has been chairman of ILAN for eight years, said that he gets choked up with every case and every success story. He read out a letter from a young man in Haifa who is confined to a wheel chair, and who has several academic degrees, including one in law for which he is in the process of completing a master’s degree – but no one will give him a job, because they judge him by the wheelchair.
On the other hand there were two heart-warming examples of ILAN graduates who are working in good mainstream jobs. Both are confined to wheelchairs.
One is Vikki, who appeared in a video and said how much she loves her job at Bank Tefahot. Without the intervention of ILAN, she said, her chances of employment would have been nil. “If I help even one client a day,” she said, “I know that I’ve done something worthwhile.”
Sarah Regimov, 21, who was born with cerebral palsy in Azerbaijan, decided that she didn’t want to study in a school for children with special needs. She went to a regular school, and studied communications.
In the course of her studies she scripted, edited and directed a film about a blind man that was subsequently screened at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
For the past year she’s been working in the Channel 10 archive, and she has also been working as a translator. Her big dream is to return to Azerbaijan as the ambassador of Israel.
Her message to other people with disabilities was: “Don’t give up on your dreams. If you work at getting past your disabilities you will succeed.” She also had a message for the general public. “We are people with abilities, not just disabilities. Look at us for what we can do.”