Eliana Shandalov is completing national service at Beit Issie Shapiro. Here she describes what is was like when she experienced her first siren with the children there…
My family is very Zionist. We made Aliya (migrated to Israel) from Chicago five years ago, when I was 13 years old to Ma’ale Adumim, which is on the outskirts of Jerusalem. I remember feeling excited yet nervous as we packed up our things, ready for a new life in Israel.
Today I am 19 and am proud to call myself Israeli. I have the privilege of doing my national service at Beit Issie Shapiro where I work with children with severe disabilities, even some who can’t speak, but at Beit Issie they learn to communicate, even with their eyes.
Up until this month, whenever I have experienced an air raid siren in Israel I have been with others, with family, at school – with people who can take care of me.
This war has changed that. Last week I experienced my first siren where I was responsible for others. The first time the siren went off when I was at Beit Issie, I was with three children and one other staff member in a classroom in the late afternoon. We were preparing the kids to go home, but that all changed in an instant when we heard the chilling, whining noise of the warning siren that rockets were heading our way.
For half a second I was in shock. It didn’t really occur to me that this would actually happen although we had done preparation drills. My adrenaline kicked in and I immediately grabbed the hand of one child who could walk. With my other hand I started pushing the wheelchair of a girl who cannot walk. We ran as quickly as we could to the shelter, while the other staff member ran with the remaining girl.
I kept calm because I knew that panicking wouldn’t help anyone. In the shelter we talked to the kids to calm them down. We made it seem that everything would be alright. We even sang, which helped to ease the tense atmosphere.
I will remember this experience for the rest of my life. Without assistance, these children wouldn’t have been able to make it to the shelter on time. I made a difference and for the first time, I truly understood the importance of taking care of and being responsible for everyone in our society, including those with disabilities. At that moment in the shelter, I felt more proud to be an Israeli and Jewish than I have ever felt in my life. The Jewish values I had been taught growing up are now truly a part of who I am. Everyone in our community and society must be included and this will strengthen all of us. Whether or not the sirens are blaring outside…
Beit Issie Shapiro is Israel’s leading developer and innovator of therapies and state-of-the-art services to improve quality of life for children and adults across the entire range of abilities. Beit Issie Shapiro promotes the full inclusion of people with disabilities in society and shares its knowledge to create lasting social change throughout Israel and the world. Like them on Facebook or learn more about Beit Issie on YouTube.