By Guest Blogger Avital Hacarmi, Founder and House-Mother of “House at the Gilboa”
“From the moment they arrived I understood that they take nothing for granted.” This is what one of the women of Merav told me this morning, when she notified me about a little thank-you letter her 8-year-old daughter received from one of the women at “House at the Gilboa” thanking her for a gift she received for the new year.
“House at the Gilboa,” located at Kibbutz Merav on the top of the Gilboa Mountains, is a welcoming haven for women with disabilities from religious homes. It was established two years ago as part of the senior community, “Beit Elisha” at Kibbutz Harduf, which has been a home for adults with disabilities for the last 16 years.
Five years ago, Merav, a religious community of 90 families, celebrated its 25th anniversary. As part of those celebrations we spoke about our long-held belief in helping those who need us.
The idea was received with blessings and a few directions were suggested. Around each idea there was a group who volunteered to investigate the need and adaptation to our community, and questions arose regarding the bureaucracy required. We formed a committee of six and the journey began…
I will not lay out the whole story, although it was a fascinating journey for all involved. When we reached the stage when it was clear to us that there weren’t any suitable frameworks for a large group of adults from the religious sector who have disabilities, we also recognized that we have a unique added value as an agricultural-Zionist religious community that can provide the right home for such an undertaking.
The house was established with joint efforts of the secretary of Merav, the founding team and the management of Beit Elisha and Kamah from Kibbutz Harduf who supported the idea ideologically and operationally throughout all its stages. Since then, the “House at the Gilboa” has also received support from the Ruderman Family Foundation.
The House took in five women ages 21-40 from across Israel. All of them were searching for a place to take their first steps outside of their families’ homes toward individual and independent living. All of them have difficulties handling a completely independent life due to their disabilities, and all of them were referred by welfare agencies.
To us, the founders and home-parents, it was obvious that the uniqueness of this home is the fact that it’s not a separated unit on the top of a mountain or in a multi-story building. Rather, it is a small rehabilitative community existing and significantly interacting with a broader and supportive community, the Merav community. In fact, the entire program was designed to foster meeting points and cooperation between the women and the community.
First of all, the location of house itself, in the center of a lively neighborhood of young families, encourages neighborly relations. Secondly, the women work within the community– in the vegetable fields, kindergarten, grocery store etc. Thirdly, afternoon hours are dedicated to group or individual enrichment activities organized by a group of community volunteers. Together they cook, dance, paint, study and more.
In addition, the children of Merav are connected to the women, who have “adopted” one of the kindergartens. They get together with the children frequently and exchange small gifts at holiday time.
On Sabbath when the women stay at Merav (every other weekend), they are invited by hosting families for a meal and take an active part in all the social and cultural events at Merav.
It is important to mention that from the beginning it was our understanding that the Merav community had to be prepared for the new home and a long process began, exposing them to the world of those women, to its challenges and its beauty.
Today, after nearly two years, the women share with us their feeling of being part of this community. They feel good – and they feel that they belong. The people of Merav too, express their delight in the new world which has been opened to them and to their children with the joining of the women of “House at the Gilboa” to the Merav community.
— Avital Hacarmi