Ever year, hundreds of special needs children in Israel have a small summer vacation away from home thanks to Alei Siach, which in doing so provides a no-less-needed respite for these children’s families. Only, this year the Jerusalem Municipality and Welfare Ministry suddenly withdrew funding for the program very close to its commencement date.
“Parents are coming to me asking how they’ll manage with their special needs child in addition to all the other children home from school, and I have no way to reassure them,” said Rabbi Chaim Perkel, chairman of Alei Siach, adding: “I’m stunned that the Jerusalem Municipality and Welfare Ministry just went ahead and stopped funding an institution that serves a clear and readily apparent need, not to mention one that has been going on for years.”
Each year some 400 special needs children and an almost equal number of trained counselors, and a paramedical staff, spend a week-long vacation away from home. The municipality’s laconic announcement canceling funding for the vacation sent out shock waves.
“Plans were almost completed,” said Rabbi Perkel. “We already reserved the large Beit Yaakov building in Be’er Yaakov and made the myriad arrangements for a packed schedule every day of the vacation, as well as a nightly evening activity for the counselors at the end of their demanding day of hard work. What will we do now?” asked Rabbi Perkel.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Perkel has sent urgent letters to UTJ and Shas MKs, to Jerusalem’s mayor and city council members, the Minister of Welfare and to other relevant government bodies.