Tourism unbound

Though there’s still a long way to go, the Tourism Ministry is now allocating NIS 15 million yearly to upgrading accessibility.

DisabledTourist311 (photo credit: .)
DisabledTourist311
(photo credit: .)
This is in excerpt of a feature article from this week's issue of the "Magazine".
When my mother visited in December 2006, nobody had any idea that something was wrong.
Sheand my father stayed at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem, just a15-minute walk away from the apartment my wife and I were renting nearthe German Colony. But they didn’t mind. They were happy to walk. Itseemed they would do it all day, every day, as they waited for us tocome back from work.
My mother loved to shop. For some inexplicablereason she would hit the same Judaica stores on Rehov Ben-Yehuda eachyear – despite the fact that their selection never seemed to change.She would be there for hours, going back and forth, comparing prices,joking with the owners, until she would finally settle on something,which, given the time and effort it took to find, inevitably lookedextremely small: carved metal Shabbat candle holders, Kiddush cups,halla covers – and all, without fail, for friends or family. Althoughshe later described my father as the “worst person to go shoppingwith,” he would always be with her.
And she would be with him whenthey went to the sites that he always wanted to revisit. The WesternWall was one of his favorite spots, Mahaneh Yehuda, as well – there wasone place there that, he says, sold the best sweet halla – and, onoccasion, day excursions outside of the capital.
I found it amazinghow, year after year since I made aliya in 2003, they could come andcontinually act like first-time tourists. After three years, I figuredthe routine would just go on forever.
But it didn’t.
It was the beginning of January 2007 when they got back to New Yorkfrom another trip here. Two months later my mom was confined to awheelchair – permanently, according to many doctors. They called itparaneoplastic syndrome, an extremely rare disease which, in certaincases, wreaks havoc on the central and peripheral nervous systems, andultimately makes it impossible to walk, eat independently or talkcoherently.
The weeks following the diagnosis were a fog of emotion anduncertainty. But coming so soon after their trip, at least one thoughtwas clear: They would never be able to visit the country again. Howcould they, after all? Managing in a place they had lived for a quarterof a century would be hard enough, but traveling by plane across anocean, to a land which, at first glance, doesn’t appear to be the mostdisabled friendly – it seemed an impossibility.
But it’s not impossible, either for them or for any otherwheelchair-bound tourist. And last month, when the pain of separation –both from the country they loved and from my growing family – hadfinally become unbearable, they discovered just how feasible such atrip was.
This is in excerpt of a feature article from this week's issue of the "Magazine".