Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Ahava mugbelet…handicapped love

The title of this event does not adequately express the incredible atmosphere which prevailed at a performance by students of  Community Theatre at Michlelet Galil Hamaaravi, in Akko last Wednesday.

These students and their mentor Professor Peter Harris carried the audience to another place. A place which one can find in every society but often is thought of as one of stress, sadness and lack of inspiration.

There’s no doubt that those who take life for granted and are blessed with physical abilities which can propel the body to almost every desire and need, would find it hard to swap places with those who sadly through nature or accident are labelled, disabled.

A broad term no doubt but what does that really mean? When ones says in English “I can disable that electrical equipment” or the computer for example,it means actually to stop it functioning.

In real life, those with disabilities are so often very capable and intelligent but limited in their movements. Limited in their speech and mobility, but not in their minds.

So at this unique event we the audience many of whom were either colleagues and friends of those on the stage but primarily family members, get an inkling of what life is for them.

Most of us have been traumatised in some way during our lives in many and various situations.The loss of loved ones due to accidents, especially on the roads. Accidents in the workplace and through natural disasters. Here I have to specify in Israel a large number of people who are labelled disabled are just victims of one persons’ madness on the roads or were born under tragic conditions.Some of us go through all of our lives not having known a disabled person. Most often  they remember Grannie or Grandpa in a wheelchair or like me a special vehicle which can take us around independantly and takes a burden off the family.

So it was enthralling to join with the actors in what is their way of life and how they come to terms with it.

Most of all to listen loud and clear to their message.We are just like you …only different.

We want love and sport and travel and to be employed in interesting work. Some of the performers already have academic  achievements and are making plans for their future.

So for Peter Harris and all who sail with him,as the saying goes, we can only wish Bon Voyage and Good Luck.

For those who performed so that others may understand and be not apprehensive about approaching someone on crutches or in a wheel chair I have nothing but praise. For giving us the ordinary people who may even have concealed disabilities, the opportunity to get to know”the other”.

My own husband  suffered for many years from a weak bladder. That may not be a situation which is of consequence to those around him but he had to use the toilet frequently and his childhood friends would tell me”we always knew when Leon was in the cinema because he was the only one who at the most dramatic moment in the movie would run down the outside aisle to the toilet”.

Be that as it may. He, with all the incoveniences which inevitably became more difficultt to deal with as he grew older, lived a full and active life.

True he couldn’t take his boys camping as other Fathers did but he was always there at the Rugby trials and other sporting events.  As a kid he  had been a very keen sportsman and  with great effort took part in the sports activities even though he could hardly breathe due to Asthma. At the age of 39 his bladder packed up and from then on he was an invalid.

So I do understand that its not easy, but as they say in Hebrew”If I am not for myself…who will be”….!

The time is now. Thank you for inviting me!

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.

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