December 30, 2008

Celebrating the Festival of Lights Amidst Conflict

Amidst Falling Rockets Israelis with Disabilities Celebrate Hanukkah Together in Southern Israel
"I am very excited today following last night's Hanukkah celebration that included 60 members from JDC's Supportive Community for the Disabled and the Accessible Community Programs in Sderot, said Nitza Dinor, a program coordinator on behalf of the Unit for Disabilities in cooperation with Gvanim Association and the Social Welfare Division of the Sderot Municipality. Nitza is all too familiar with events being cancelled and rooms left empty because members of the local Supportive Community were too afraid to leave their homes due to a surge of Kassam rockets.

Nitza further expressed in a message to JDC-Israel, "I believe that our members are grasping for life and happiness, which they know they can find in togetherness. All of us understand that this is what keeps us strong in this situation.”

JDC's Supportive Community for the Disabled and the Accessible Community Programs in Sderot provide personal and social support for people with disabilities and their families living in Sderot. The programs were established with funds from UJC/Federation Israel Emergency Campaign and from the Northern New Jersey Jewish Federation. Currently 100 people with disabilities participate in these activities and the aim is to increase the scope to all 500 people living with severe disabilities in Sderot.

These programs were created with a strong emphasis on emergency preparedness including: emergency contact lists, the recruiting and training of volunteers for home visits, preparations for respite or evacuations if needed, workshops for stress reduction and distribution of equipment specially designed for people with disabilities such as lighting and communication devices.

In addition, JDC completed upgrades on two public buildings—a social club and an employment center—in Sderot to ensure their safety from Kassam rockets. These facilities serve 150 community members with disabilities who attend these activities every day in spite of the attacks knowing that the facilities have the highest standards of protection, as approved by Israel’s Homefront Command. JDC-ESHEL, the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged in Israel also consulted on this to ensure the buildings were fully accessible for elderly people living with disabilities.

JDC is committed to providing support and relief to members of the vulnerable populations—children, elderly, and people with disabilities—living in Sderot, the Gaza Border Region, and the Southern Conflict Zone. JDC works to secure the safety and well-being of these community members and works to create a positive and productive community environment. As Nitza remarked, “It is important not to give up on our events and to attend social evenings and celebrate holidays together. This togetherness creates a very powerful resilience as we felt at the Hanukkah celebration.”

JDC programs that support the communities in the Southern Conflict Zone are funded by the UJC/Federation Israel Emergency Campaign and are run in full cooperation with UJC, JAFI, and the government of Israel.

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