Beit Yael

Center for the Advancement of the Blind

Today, we take it for granted that Western society provides for people with special needs. While there is always room for improvement in the services that are provided to challenged and disabled individuals, the situation is much better than it was in the past.

Yael Ben-Dor was a visionary who saw the importance of integrating individuals with various disabilities and limitations into society at a time when few people thought about such things. Dr. Ben-Dor escaped from Nazi Germany in 1934, relatively early in the Nazi regime, but late enough to have seen the devastation and destruction that the Jews were suffering.  She and her brothers made their way to Palestine, and Dr. Ben Dor began to practice her specialty of obstetrics and gynecology in the North. At the same time, she taught first aid to the Jewish underground fighters of the Hagana , and did everything that she could to help the State of Israel become a reality, participating actively in the battle to liberate Tzfat.

As the years progressed, Dr. Ben Dor saw that many people, especially adolescents and young people, were struggling with emotional and psychological issues which complicated their lives. She began to meet with these youngsters at the local community center, and slowly started to raise community awareness of the needs of these young people.

Creating a Program for the Visually Impaired

By the 1970s, Dr. Ben Dor's field of interest was turning towards the needs of the visually impaired. She began programs in the Tzfat Community Center which were aimed at creating and improving the skills of visually challenged individuals which would allow them to integrate as fully as possible into society. As time progressed, her small program turned into The Center for the Advancement of the Blind in Tzfat, and a generous grant from a Canadian foundation allowed her to build an independent Center, giving a full-time staff the space and time to assist the people who began to come to the Center.

As Beit Yael writes on its website: "One of the major philosophies behind Beit Yael's work is that the vision impaired must be comfortable in their own environment in spite of their limitations." Towards this end, Beit Yael invites visually challenged individuals from throughout Israel to come to Tzfat to participate in their programs. While Beit Yael's ultimate goal is to help the visually impaired integrate into the seeing society, they also recognize that people with vision problems need to spend time with others who have the same limitations and challenges, in order to strengthen their self-image and ability to develop the skills necessary to function in a seeing society.

Programming for All

In addition to the basic programs that Beit Yael runs to give visually impaired individuals the opportunity to manage their own lives independently and function effectively, Beit Yael also runs:
*a Senior's Club for visually impaired seniors
*Summer Camps for visually impaired children
*Residential Rehab, for the newly-blind or people who are becoming blind
*Vacation Camps for visually impaired adults
*Computer Lab to teach computer skills to the blind
*A Gym
*Horseback Riding

Western society has come a long way in recognizing special needs, but in Israel, the best address for helping visually impaired individuals adjust to a seeing society and develop the skills necessary to function in that society is Beit Yael in Tzfat.

To contact the Center, call 04-6920445-6 or write to [email protected]