Building a Network of Support for Israeli Families With Special Needs

Every parent knows how tough it is to balance work and family. But for Bader, an Israeli Arab construction worker and father of eight, the struggles of daily life are multiplied by his eldest son’s many special needs. Problems with hearing and vision as well as cognitive difficulties make it challenging for his son to navigate social situations.


Accessing disability services in Israel often means navigating a confusing maze of bureaucracies and agencies. Fortunately, Bader found assistance at Tzamid Ramla, an outreach group for parents of children with special needs, run by Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.


From Cohort to Community


Operating in Bader’s hometown of Ramla and neighboring city Lod, Tzamid is the first group of its kind in Israel to bring Jewish and Arab parents, both religious and secular, together with social workers and other professionals to help guide them through the complexities of obtaining services for their children. That personal attention, both sensitive and caring, makes all the difference.


Tzamid is also about mutual support. Attendees—each of whom has a child with physical, emotional or intellectual challenges—have become close friends, quick with a laugh or to listen to each other’s stories.


A Model for Others


Bader says attending Tzamid meetings has helped him develop strategies for improving his relationship with his son and has helped his other children better interact with their brother.


He’s also as proud of the work the group is doing to create change in the region. Tzamid parents have organized informal enrichment and youth activities for children with special needs in Ramla and Lod. And they’re planning events to foster an open dialogue between the special needs community and local residents.


Joining Tzamid, Bader believes, also serves as an example for other families in the area and beyond, encouraging them to participate.


“It’s hard. It’s hard to come to these things. But I want to do it for my son,” he shares. “Ultimately, we’re here to improve our kids’ lives, to learn how we can help them reach their potential….[and] there’s so many people who can benefit from this kind of support.”


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