Today was a special day – It was our nation’s birthday but we celebrated in another state we also call home. We started our day at the JDC “Accessible Health Zone” in the Sports Center in Rishon Leytzion, which provides the disable community and people with special needs the tools and support networks they need for a healthier lifestyle. There, we met incredibly strong and inspirational Israelis who taught, showed and made us feel the meaning of determination, family, and what it means to be able bodied and to not take a single second for granted. We participated in two activities – wheelchair basketball, and an obstacle course while blindfolded to show us what it’s like to move throughout the world as a visually impaired person. We also heard from Tzippy Zipper, a young woman who was born in Colorado and made Aliyah to Israel while in High School. She joined the Israeli Army in a combat unit and rose to the ranks of commander before becoming the first woman to pass a high-level training course to work at selected security checkpoints throughout Israel. Unfortunately she was hit by a car and sustained injuries that appeared to be minor, but she told us that her condition deteriorated and then she was diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome and relies on a wheelchair to be mobile. She joined the JDC in Tel Aviv and now works as a volunteer and motivational figure at the center on a weekly basis.
We were then on our way to the JAFI Ethnic Cooks Program where we had the most intimate and traditional home cooked lunch with some Iraqi influences (and it was AMAZING). The lunch was cooked by Lilly Aziz, who made Aliyah from Iraq in 1951 when she was five years old, and she told us about how the Jewish Agency provided her and her family the opportunity to move to Israel.
We met with the rest of the JFNA group at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall and all said the shehechyanu as a group with wine and challah. It was there where we shared our personal hopes, dreams, and tears at the western wall.
Our last stop of the day was at the JAFI headquarters where we learned about an agency called SAHI, and organization that helps youth-at-risk by teaching them how to help others. We were able to connect and volunteer with some of the SAHI “at-risk” teens who helped us to fill our hearts with mitzvot, and inspirational stories.