Aleh Negev in the western part of the Negev Desert is a community build for those with special needs.
"The village was established with the specific aim of breaking with conventions," said Doron Almog its founder, "the world needed a change. A place that would encompass a community while modeling acceptance of others. That was our aim and that is what we’ve built," he said.
"There are miracles in rehabilitations and social activity all the time," Almog said, "Our kids and young people, disabled from birth, thrive here and live a happy, and meaningful life and through respect and our daily involvement, are given the opportunity to feel an integral part of society."
"And at this time, the social separation we are feeling impacts all of us," he concluded.
Aleh Negev, established nearly 40 years ago by a group of concerned parents searching for a better life for their children, has become an all-encompassing network providing housing, therapies and rehabilitation for people with mental and physical disabilities and challenges.
Hundreds of children and youngsters are able to thrive and receive the treatments and educational programs of the highest level along with rich social activities.
Almog a retired general in the IDF and his wife Didi, had been searching for the proper accommodation for their son Eran, borne with severe autism and an impaired mental and physical development. They fell in love with Aleh and took upon themselves the mission to develop and grow the community so that their son could live with people struggling with some of the same challenges and learn to play and thrive together.
"We wanted to find a place that answered Eran's developmental needs and build a community around it, " Almog said.
And after Eran's death in 2007 from Castleman disease, a rare disorder that involves an overgrowth of cells in the body's lymph nodes, Almog stayed on to continue his son's legacy and transform their dream into reality.
Today the village of Aleh Negev – Nachlat Eran, is a loving home to over 150 children and young adults suffering from developmental impediments and medical challenges.
It also offers therapeutic treatments to outpatients including physical therapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. There is also a dental clinic on site specializing in patients with special needs.
Each month, during the past 10 years, more than 1,000 visitors from Israel and around the world come to Aleh Negev to see with their own eyes this unique place and the care – seen nowhere else in the world.
By implementing ground-breaking treatments collected from all over the world, and the methods developed locally, the village offers a unique
blend of therapeutic care for those suffering disabilities from birth and others challenged by trauma.
Despite the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that had forced us to close our village off to visitors in the past few months, the work continues, and the resident's daily lives remain undisturbed.
Hundreds arrive periodically for treatment after creative efforts were put in place to ensure everyone's safety.
At least 100 IDF soldiers and civilians from the area are referred to Aleh Negev for rehabilitation enriching the community made up of residents, staff, students, politicians and entrepreneurs all sharing the same therapeutic pool and other facilities. This is the accepting society the founders have created, and Israel is a better place for it.
Plans are already in place to enlarge the facility with a neuro-orthopedic rehabilitation hospital in the final stages of construction.
Despite Israel having a population of 9 million, there are only 850 dedicated rehabilitation beds in the entire country and only 50 of them in the south.
The new hospital, made up of 108 such beds and the research center built alongside it in partnership with the Ben Gurion University, will respond to the urgent need and alleviate some of the difficulties while also contributing to the development of the Negev.
Thanks to the support of the government, the JNF and other philanthropists the hospital, set to open during 2021 will increase Israel's rehabilitation capacity dramatically and provide the highest quality professional care to residents of the south as well as increase job opportunities in the area. Housing for hospital staff is already being build adjacent to the village.
"We believe residents of the south deserve the same level of care provided anywhere else and are confident we would be able to raise the bar for therapeutic care. The village was founded on the principle that every human is just that, regardless of disabilities and challenges and this hospital will advance that vision and provide the best treatment for all." Dorona Almog said.
With the cooperation of Ben Gurion University, The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, John's Hopkins, The Sheba Medical Center, The Weizmann Institute and the Irbid University in Jordan – the hospital plans to research all fields of rehabilitation whether the need stems from a car accident or the coronavirus.
Aleh Negev would benefit from the research conducted in partnership with medical centers the world over and will continue to grow with plans to establish a community for 500 families that will include residents with special needs among its residents.
We never intended this village to be the limit of our dreams. It is just the beginning and we must continue to renew and create the best rehabilitation resources for a wide spectrum of humanity and never stop building for a better more accepting society. That is the dream," Almog said.