Survey: Most synagogues inaccessible to the disabled

Around 1.5 million Israelis are disabled; Access Israel say only 7.5% of country's synagogues are fully accessible.

Geulat Yisrael synagogue Shenkin 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Geulat Yisrael synagogue Shenkin 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
More than 60 percent of the nation’s synagogues are not accessible to people with disabilities, according to a survey by Access Israel, released to coincide with the holiday season.
Nine out of 10 synagogues have no way for the disabled to get on the elevated bima, where the Torah is read, the organization reported.
“It can’t be that thousands of people who want to fulfill their desire to attend on the holidays are not able to do it, or they’re forced to do so in inhuman conditions,” Access Israel director Yuval Wagner said in a statement.
“This can’t be the situation in the State of Israel, a Jewish state. And it can’t be that the elderly and the handicapped people can’t pray in a synagogue.”
About 1.5 million Israelis are disabled, according to the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This includes 293,000 seriously disabled and 491,000 moderately disabled. Women account for 56% of the disabled.
In synagogues, women’s sections are often located on the second floor, making access even more difficult.
Women’s sections that are located in the back of synagogues or on the second floor also make it more difficult for women who are hard of hearing.
Access Israel sent the results of the survey to Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi, appealing for additional funding over the next few years to make synagogues more accessible.
The organization surveyed synagogues in 15 cities, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, Bat Yam, Kfar Saba and Modi’in. They evaluated 40 synagogues based on the amount of handicapped parking spots, access to the front door, access to the bima, and access to the women’s section.
Based on these criteria, 64% of synagogues were not accessible, 28.5% were partially accessible, and only 7.5% were fully accessible.