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700 Arabs donate 300,000 shekels for large Israeli charity that helps disabled children

By Mason White 5:59 PM June 17, 2014
Group of Arab volunteers for Israeli charity 

By: Anav Silverman
For the first time, hundreds of Arabs held a fundraiser and collected hundreds of thousands of shekels for a leading Israeli charity organization, the Tazpit News Agency reported.

The Israeli Arab city of Kalansua, which is located in central Israel, held a fundraising event called “A Smile of Hope.”

The fundraiser benefited the leading Israeli disabilities organization, Beit Issie Shapiro and their Sindian Center, which serves the Kalansua community and Arabs from across the Southern Triangle.

The event is believed to be the largest fundraiser of its kind in an Arab community for an established Israeli charity, with 700 people in attendance and 300,000 shekels ($86,700) raised.

Organizer Nawaf Zmiro is a lifelong campaigner for the disabilities organization in the Arab community, and is the recipient of the President’s Prize for Volunteering.

“As someone with a disability myself, I have a great appreciation for Beit Issie Shapiro,” said Nawaf. “Together, we do such good work for the population with disabilities in the Southern Triangle. The social change that was needed is already being felt in a very impressive way because we have been working for so long and so hard on inclusion. Beit Issie Shapiro has helped me realize my ambitions, and to show my abilities for people with disabilities,” he added.

“This event is testimony to how the community is committed to helping people with disabilities,” said Jean Judes, Executive Director of Beit Issie Shapiro. “I remember when we first started working in Kalansua, there was great stigma towards the people with disabilities. Today the situation is reversed,” Judes added.

The event was hosted by the well-known Arab news and sports reporter Zohir Baalul, with speakers including Beit Issie Shapiro’s Executive Director Jean Judes and Advisor on Arab Affairs to the Minister of Education, Mr. Nasser Abu Safia.

Mayor of Kalansua Mr. Albassat Slama, and Dr. Zeid Abou Moch, Head of the Islamic Department of the Interior Ministry, attended the event, as did Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Arab Movement for Change (Ta’al) party.

“It was moving and emotional to see everyone working together as partners towards a joint mission, as well as the commitment to ensuring the financial sustainability of this important community service,” said Judes.

“We felt that, in addition to raising funds, we were creating an unprecedented cross-cultural dialogue between Jews and Arabs, and between people with disabilities and those without,” said Nawaf. “We all have a common goal, and want our children to be healthy and happy. Through a language understood by all, Jews and Arabs united under the common banner of giving. My heart was overwhelmed throughout the evening.”

The Beit Issie Shapiro Sindian Center in Kalansua, is a model in the Arab community. It was the first disability organization of its kind in Arab society to care for the entire family as well as children with disabilities. Beit Issie Shapiro provides workshops for the families of children with disabilities, mainstreaming children with disabilities into local schools, and providing workshops for local Imams and community leaders.

Beit Issie Shapiro facilitates cooperation between Jewish and Arab professionals, including those within the Palestinian Authority, in order to ensure that each child receives the best therapy suited to them.

Based in Ra’anana, Beit Issie Shapiro is a nonprofit innovator of therapies for children and adults with disabilities across Israel and around the world. It serves 30,000 people in Israel annually. In 2012, Beit Issie Shapiro became the first Israeli disabilities charity to have been awarded the Special Consultative Status to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council.