Special needs village for Arab adults breaks ground in Galilee

President Shimon Peres was among those who laid a cornerstone for the Ziv Nur Democratic High School.

wheelchair 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy [file])
wheelchair 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
Construction started northwest of Karmiel on Tuesday for what is believed to be the world's first cooperative community for Arab adults with special needs. President Shimon Peres was among those who laid a cornerstone for the Ziv Nur Democratic High School, the first building in the Alfanara community which will be built as a twin to Kishorit a model of a communal living environment for people with special needs. Alfanara means lighthouse in Arabic. Also present at the ground breaking ceremony were Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, Misgav Regional Council head Ron Shani and other local Arab and Jewish officials. Kishorit and Alfanara will serve as an experiment in coexistence. The initiative to establish Alfanara came from Jewish and Arab staff members who joined forces in establishing Kishorit 12 years ago. The government has agreed to fund Alfanara's basic infrastructure, and the new community is expected to open in about two years. Residents will maintain Arab cultural traditions while living and working alongside the Jewish community of Kishorit, which provides occupational and long-term residential services for people over 21 with special needs. Residents with schizophrenia, Asperger's syndrome, Down's syndrome and other disorders have found new meaning in their lives. Kishorit was the brainchild of Yael Shilo and Shuki Levinger, whose revolutionary ideas have won global attention. Based on the kibbutz model of community living, equal rights and duties, and equal work, residential, health care and leisure time opportunities for all residents, Kishorit is a success story. "This is an historic day in the attitude of Israeli society to the special needs of Arabs as well as Jews," said Levinger. "From this small pastoral corner of the Galilee, a universal message about a humanitarian breakthrough is going out into the world..." Omar Karim Rafa, the director of the Alfanara community, said: "Let us hope that this village will not be the last but will serve as a model for other villages that will rise up on a principle of coexistence and cooperation."