How Difficult Is It To Be Disabled In Israel? Very

According to Access Israel:

…95 percent of the cafes don’t have accessible bathrooms and only five beaches are accessible.

There are problems with post offices and stores as well." He says only 26 percent of 500,000 handicapped people are employed in any way…

This is despite years of pleading by Diaspora Jews and the intervention of people like Isaac Stern. If you were to check shuls and yeshivot, I think the number inaccessible would approach 100%.

There is no excuse for this. The number of wounded Israeli soldiers who are unable to go to shul or a café is heartbreaking. And no one really cares.

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14 Comments

Filed under Bio-Ethics, Hessed, Israel

14 responses to “How Difficult Is It To Be Disabled In Israel? Very

  1. Actually, our shul is one of the few in the neighborhood that is handicapped accessible.

  2. Anon

    Yeshivat Har Etzion/Gush is currently in the process of becoming handicap accessible.

  3. Scam Alert

    like scotty israel is a failure in every sense of the word.

  4. Anonymous

    I must admit I find this really depressing and disappointing, aside from making me angry. I’m looking to convert, and this scares me. I have enough to worry about here in the US being disabled (24 years of a form of Muscular Dystrophy that put me on wheels at the moment), there goes my dream of living in Israel someday.

    What? People who are disabled have cooties or something? So if it ain’t accessible they won’t have to worry about us, or feel “uncomfortable”? …figures, its the same old damn song that never ends….

  5. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    The recent Conservative movement teshuvot regarding both homosexuality and taharat ha-mishpacha also reveal a bias against people with disabilities in a more personal way. The more lenient Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuva, as well as the two which were deemed takanot by the CJLS, emphasized the alleged injustice of requiring those who are exclusively attracted to those of their own gender to remain celibate. Yet at the same time, the CJLS passed several teshuvot on taharat ha-mishpacha this past September, affirming this mitzvah as binding, and none of which mentions the situation of women with serious disabilities who either need accessable mikva’ot, or moreover, who are not able to use a mikveh even with adaptive equipment. In essence, the Conservative rabbis who formulate the movement’s understanding of halacha have more sympathy for those who desire same-sex relations than for straight women with severe disabilities who desire to marry within the tradition and live a normal Jewish life with a man. That is, why can a majority of Conservative rabbis find leniency in the former case, but not the latter? Are they actively encouraging women in such a situation to become lesbian, given that this may well be a lesser prohibition? At least Orthodoxy is consistent here, if not always compassionate.

  6. Isa

    I hear age discrimination is pretty fierce in Israel. If you are over 40 years old and do not have a critical needed skil – forget it!
    In America age discrimination starts at age 45 and gets fierce at age 50 unless one has a critical needed skill.

    “”””What? People who are disabled have cooties or something?””””
    Yep, its probably worse than that

  7. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    As for the person with some form of muscular dystrophy above who is looking to convert to Judaism:

    First don’t worry about access in Israel at this time. The obstacles to conversion under either Orthodox or Conservative auspices in the USA are formidable enough for anyone with a serious disability.

    I do not mean in any way to be discouraging here, indeed far to the contrary as I note at the end of my comments, but the chances of anyone who needs to use a wheelchair successfully completing an Orthodox conversion (even under the most modern Orthodox auspices), no matter how sincere they intend to keep the mitzvot, are next to nil. You will be expected to become strictly shomer Shabbat, which means that you will need to find accessible housing within wheelchair distance of an Orthodox synagogue. You will not be allowed to use an electric wheelchair on Shabbat or Yom Tov, unless you can afford to get a special Shabbat wheelchair, which is quite expensive, and if you are severely disabled to the point of needing a fiber-optic wheelchair, forget it — there are no Shabbat-compatible fiber-optic chairs as of this time, and someone else will need to wheel you around in a manual chair 60-odd days a year. You likely will also need to ask a rabbi quite a few questions as to what may be permissible to operate on Shabbat in terms of potentially lifesaving medical needs (pikuach nefesh), as well as kashrut and Pesach questions if you live with a non-observant or non-Jewish roommate, or have personal assistants coming in and out, or if you ever need to be fed by gastric tube with food that might be safek chametz. The rabbi might ask to speak with all of these personal assistants to train them in the myriad laws of kashrut, so that they will know which hechshers are acceptable in your community for them to help you buy your food and also do not make your utensils unkosher by accidentally mixing milk and meat, or even cooking an item that needs to be cooked by a Jew due to the prohibition of bishul akum.

    Moreover, there is the issue of mikveh. Immersion in a kosher mikveh is part of the conversion process, and you need to be able to safely immerse in a mikveh just to be accepted as a candidate for conversion. If there is even a safek (doubt) that immersion might prove fatal, Orthodoxy will not let you convert. Period. And if you are female and married, or intend to be married, you will be expected to go to mikveh every month, starting just before your wedding. There are about two dozen or so accessible mikva’ot with lift equipment for people with disabilities in the entire United States, so you would need to consider living in a community that has such equipment — or else you will strenuously have to advocate for an accessible mikveh in your community if you want to have a married life. If at some future point after conversion, if you ever get to that point, you become unable to safely immerse, you will be expected to be celibate for the rest of your life, regardless of how much this hurts both you and your husband.

    While the Conservative movement may not insist on all these strict demands for observance, and will let you take a van ride to synagogue on Shabbat, the official position of the Committe on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) when it comes to the conversion of persons with severe disabilities where mikveh or circumcision may endager the life of the prospective convert is no different from that of Orthodoxy. A 1994 teshuva authored by Rabbi Herbert Mandl upheld the requirement for circumcision in the case of a man with hemophilia and forbade him from converting, even though for a born Jew with hemophilia, one is automatically considered halachically mahul (circumcised) even without brit milah in cases of pikuach nefesh. A small minority of the CJLS dissented from this decision, notably Rabbi Gordon Tucker, who later called the day of this ruling the darkest day the CJLS has ever had. More recently, an article appeared in Summer 2006 issue of Conservative Judaism written by Rabbi Edward M. Friedman of Temple Israel in Manchester, New Hampshire describing the conversion of someone who was not able to safely immerse in a mikveh. Realizing that the CJLS would likely uphold the ruling of the Mandl teshuva and forbid this conversion as well, Rabbi Friedman acted as the mara d’atra of his community and asked his local colleagues if they were willing to perform the conversion with tisha kabin in lieu of mikveh (as is done, for instance, with a corpse when a mikveh would be problematic). According to the article, none of the rabbis he contacted objected, and so he, Rabbi Tucker, and one other rabbi formed the bet din for this conversion. The article points out that earlier rabbis waived the Torah requirement for a korban from all converts after the destruction of the Second Temple. So unless one can find a Conservative rabbi willing to risk being kicked out of the Rabbinical Assembly by bucking his movement’s official position on this matter, a person with a severe disability cannot convert Conservative either.

    And even if you get through all these steps, the Orthodox will not recognize the validity of your conversion. And that gets back to the State of Israel and the “Who is a Jew” issue under the Law of Return.

    Having said so much that may seem so discouraging, I still say if you are sincere, go for it! Somebody needs to break down these discriminatory halachic barriers, and maybe G-d put you here to do just that.

  8. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    As for the person with some form of muscular dystrophy above who is looking to convert to Judaism:

    First don’t worry about access in Israel at this time. The obstacles to conversion under either Orthodox or Conservative auspices in the USA are formidable enough for anyone with a serious disability.

    I do not mean in any way to be discouraging here, indeed far to the contrary as I note at the end of my comments, but the chances of anyone who needs to use a wheelchair successfully completing an Orthodox conversion (even under the most modern Orthodox auspices), no matter how sincere they intend to keep the mitzvot, are next to nil. You will be expected to become strictly shomer Shabbat, which means that you will need to find accessible housing within wheelchair distance of an Orthodox synagogue. You will not be allowed to use an electric wheelchair on Shabbat or Yom Tov, unless you can afford to get a special Shabbat wheelchair, which is quite expensive, and if you are severely disabled to the point of needing a fiber-optic wheelchair, forget it — there are no Shabbat-compatible fiber-optic chairs as of this time, and someone else will need to wheel you around in a manual chair 60-odd days a year. You likely will also need to ask a rabbi quite a few questions as to what may be permissible to operate on Shabbat in terms of potentially lifesaving medical needs (pikuach nefesh), as well as kashrut and Pesach questions if you live with a non-observant or non-Jewish roommate, or have personal assistants coming in and out, or if you ever need to be fed by gastric tube with food that might be safek chametz. The rabbi might ask to speak with all of these personal assistants to train them in the myriad laws of kashrut, so that they will know which hechshers are acceptable in your community for them to help you buy your food and also do not make your utensils unkosher by accidentally mixing milk and meat, or even cooking an item that needs to be cooked by a Jew due to the prohibition of bishul akum.

    Moreover, there is the issue of mikveh. Immersion in a kosher mikveh is part of the conversion process, and you need to be able to safely immerse in a mikveh just to be accepted as a candidate for conversion. If there is even a safek (doubt) that immersion might prove fatal, Orthodoxy will not let you convert. Period. And if you are female and married, or intend to be married, you will be expected to go to mikveh every month, starting just before your wedding. There are about two dozen or so accessible mikva’ot with lift equipment for people with disabilities in the entire United States, so you would need to consider living in a community that has such equipment — or else you will strenuously have to advocate for an accessible mikveh in your community if you want to have a married life. If at some future point after conversion, if you ever get to that point, you become unable to safely immerse, you will be expected to be celibate for the rest of your life, regardless of how much this hurts both you and your husband.

    While the Conservative movement may not insist on all these strict demands for observance, and will let you take a van ride to synagogue on Shabbat, the official position of the Committe on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) when it comes to the conversion of persons with severe disabilities where mikveh or circumcision may endager the life of the prospective convert is no different from that of Orthodoxy. A 1994 teshuva authored by Rabbi Herbert Mandl upheld the requirement for circumcision in the case of a man with hemophilia and forbade him from converting, even though for a born Jew with hemophilia, one is automatically considered halachically mahul (circumcised) even without brit milah in cases of pikuach nefesh. A small minority of the CJLS dissented from this decision, notably Rabbi Gordon Tucker, who later called the day of this ruling the darkest day the CJLS has ever had. More recently, an article appeared in Summer 2006 issue of Conservative Judaism written by Rabbi Edward M. Friedman of Temple Israel in Manchester, New Hampshire describing the conversion of someone who was not able to safely immerse in a mikveh. Realizing that the CJLS would likely uphold the ruling of the Mandl teshuva and forbid this conversion as well, Rabbi Friedman acted as the mara d’atra of his community and asked his local colleagues if they were willing to perform the conversion with tisha kabin in lieu of mikveh (as is done, for instance, with a corpse when a mikveh would be problematic). According to the article, none of the rabbis he contacted objected, and so he, Rabbi Tucker, and one other rabbi formed the bet din for this conversion. The article points out that earlier rabbis waived the Torah requirement for a korban from all converts after the destruction of the Second Temple. So unless one can find a Conservative rabbi willing to risk being kicked out of the Rabbinical Assembly by bucking his movement’s official position on this matter, a person with a severe disability cannot convert Conservative either.

    And even if you get through all these steps, the Orthodox will not recognize the validity of your conversion. And that gets back to the State of Israel and the “Who is a Jew” issue under the Law of Return.

    Having said so much that may seem so discouraging, I still say if you are sincere, go for it! Somebody needs to break down these discriminatory halachic barriers, and maybe G-d put you here to do just that.

  9. shuls would not be 100%, but might be close. My shul is wheelchair accessible. We even have two people in wheelchairs coming to daven by us because we are the most accessible for them in our neighborhood.

  10. Kehilat Yedidya in Jerusalem is accessable. Here’s a drawing of the building (we don’t have any photographs that show the ramps this clearly, but it does look like this).

  11. Kehilat Yedidya in Jerusalem is accessable. Here’s a drawing of the building (we don’t have any photographs that show the ramps this clearly, but it does look like this).

  12. John F

    To Stephen,

    Thanks for the nice response. I just wanted to respond to your comment back in appreciation. I’m a 24yr old male. While I DO have a form of MD, Thank G_D it is not anything like what most people familiar with MD has seen (especially with the whole telethon kids). I was getting around quite well till after I had undergone surgery for scoliosis, and apparently since I no longer had full use of the muscles I had been usuing all those years and now only can use the ones I didn’t…eventually led to use of a walker and eventually a manual chair. That’s where I end, I only use manual as my upper is a lot stronger than my lower.

    But you raise many a great points that I have been concerned with and some (like accessibility) is an issue even if I wasn’t considering conversion. Like with most things, accessibility–especially in the home–will consist of a LOT of uphill battles. I’m sure the Orthodox will give me quite the “raspberry” when I come knocking on their door, but they’ll soon notice I’m a pitbull and will lock my jaws on their backends and won’t let go. In other words, I’m ready and willing to fight tooth and nail to the death–so to speak–for it. As I’ve told many, if G_D gave me a choice to choose between “”being normal” or according to man’s definition of normal which is rather flawed since there isn’t a perfect person out there IMHO, and being able to convert…hands down is conversion. I’m use to being disabled, and it’s kept me broken down to where I know how to listen to Hashem while everyone else has their heads in the clouds or “just too busy” to listen. Know what I mean?

    If I was going into this a lot worse off with disability–aside from the “wheels” I’m basically you’re totally average 24 year old guy–I would just accept “defeat”. But, that’s just not my style and who I am. I’m a tough fighter, always was and always will be. 🙂 I’ll go in the ring with both paws up, bobbing and weaving in this battle so to speak. Even though the odds may be stacked up against me, I’ve managed to come out of things alive and kicking when I should have been dead, and that was when the odds were against me then too….so let’s just say the odds don’t frighten me as much as they would others lol. At any rate, thanks for the response, you brought up many valid points. 🙂

  13. John F

    To Stephen,

    Thanks for the nice response. I just wanted to respond to your comment back in appreciation. I’m a 24yr old male. While I DO have a form of MD, Thank G_D it is not anything like what most people familiar with MD has seen (especially with the whole telethon kids). I was getting around quite well till after I had undergone surgery for scoliosis, and apparently since I no longer had full use of the muscles I had been usuing all those years and now only can use the ones I didn’t…eventually led to use of a walker and eventually a manual chair. That’s where I end, I only use manual as my upper is a lot stronger than my lower.

    But you raise many a great points that I have been concerned with and some (like accessibility) is an issue even if I wasn’t considering conversion. Like with most things, accessibility–especially in the home–will consist of a LOT of uphill battles. I’m sure the Orthodox will give me quite the “raspberry” when I come knocking on their door, but they’ll soon notice I’m a pitbull and will lock my jaws on their backends and won’t let go. In other words, I’m ready and willing to fight tooth and nail to the death–so to speak–for it. As I’ve told many, if G_D gave me a choice to choose between “”being normal” or according to man’s definition of normal which is rather flawed since there isn’t a perfect person out there IMHO, and being able to convert…hands down is conversion. I’m use to being disabled, and it’s kept me broken down to where I know how to listen to Hashem while everyone else has their heads in the clouds or “just too busy” to listen. Know what I mean?

    If I was going into this a lot worse off with disability–aside from the “wheels” I’m basically you’re totally average 24 year old guy–I would just accept “defeat”. But, that’s just not my style and who I am. I’m a tough fighter, always was and always will be. 🙂 I’ll go in the ring with both paws up, bobbing and weaving in this battle so to speak. Even though the odds may be stacked up against me, I’ve managed to come out of things alive and kicking when I should have been dead, and that was when the odds were against me then too….so let’s just say the odds don’t frighten me as much as they would others lol. At any rate, thanks for the response, you brought up many valid points. 🙂

  14. Yehud

    G-d bless you John. I hope you do convert. You sound like you would make an excellent Jew.

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