A couple of weeks ago, Israel’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, extolled institutionalization during his fanfare visit [link] to Aleh Negev.

His hyperbolic praise of Israel’s largest chain of closed institutions for children and adults with disabilities included these words:

“It is an opportunity to experience the vision, the mission and the love of mankind evident here. This meeting teaches us about man’s spirit, and about the power of a society that is measured by its sensitivity and its efforts to benefit every person.”

At about the same moment, another world-renowned figure sent the opposite message about institutionalization.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, his creator J.K. Rowling gave a rare interview [link] to Christiane Amanpour on CNN during which she focused on the history and mission of her NGO, Lumos.

“Our ambition is to end the institutionalization of children throughout the world by 2050”.

JK Rowling [Image Source]

She noted that 8 million children are currently warehoused in institutions globally, “But that might be a low guess“.

She added that

90% of those children have at least one parent who overwhelmingly did not want to give the child up“.

(In many cases, that is true of those living in Aleh facilities as well.)

She warned donors to

“be careful how you give because even if you’re giving with the best of intentions, you may inadvertently be doing harm… propping up a system that we know, 100 years of research shows that even a well run institution, even an institution set up with the best possible intentions, will irrevocably harm the child“.

Rowling also addressed potential volunteers:

“Volunteer differently… Volunteering is an amazing thing but volunteer in the right way. Unfortunately, little though you might want to believe it, one of the reasons institutions are set up is to bring into the country foreign money in the form of donations but also in the form of volunteers, wealthy Western volunteers who are also bringing currency.”

The next time you see one of Aleh’s invitations to volunteer and donate to its large, closed institutions, you may want to ask yourself: “Why do they want me?”