Israeli 9th-graders learn life lessons from disabled peers
Tikkun Olam exposes high school freshmen to kids with disabilities, instilling feelings of empathy, acceptance and inclusion.
Nearly 400 ninth-graders from the Interdisciplinary High School in Hadera accompanied students from the nearby Neve Etgar School for Children with Special Needs on a Tu B’Shvat tree-planting activity earlier this year. The Hadera students decided to organize a music and crafts activity for the special-needs kids a week later.
The two groups might never have crossed paths if not for a program called Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World), launched in September 2016 by ADI, Israel’s care network for children with severe complex disabilities, in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Education.
Tikkun Olam exposes Israeli high school freshmen to peers with disabilities and teaches them about acceptance and inclusion through lectures, experiential workshops and volunteering opportunities.
More than 10,000 secular, ultra-Orthodox, national-religious, Arab and Druze students from 60 schools across Israel participated in the first year, leading to a noticeable spike in youth-led volunteerism and social initiatives. This year, the goal is to reach 100,000 students.
“The encouraging responses we receive, the independent initiatives led by Tikkun Olam participants — teachers, parents, school principals and students — teach us that this is the beginning of a social revolution with the youth at the forefront,” says Avi Wortzman, director-general of ADI’s rehabilitation village in the Negev. ADI is an acronym for the Hebrew words “helping the special child".