Hallel Ner-David decided to celebrate her bat mitzvah in a unique way, together with her family. They chose to hike 12 trails together in Israel and the US. The last trail they hiked was LOTEM’s accessible trail in NahalHaShofet. Hallel shares her moving experience with us.
“Many of us take hiking in the outdoors for granted. However, LOTEM understands that this is not so and they are doing something to change the situation.”
Last Chanukah, my family and I decided to hike twelve climbing trails together in honor of my bat mitzvah. Now, one year later, I want to tell you about these hikes, known as “Hallel’s Hikes” and about one trail in particular in NahalHaShofet.
Our last hike was in NahalHaShofet. This trail certainly was not a climbing one. We had spoken as a family about the fact that not everybody is able to hike but that this does not mean that one who cannot hike does not want to enjoy nature. We then heard about NahalHaShofet and the nonprofit organization in Israel by the name of LOTEM.
NahalHaShofet is a stream next to YokneamMoshava whose waters flow throughout the whole year. It is named for an American Jewish judge. The thing that is most unique about this stream is that there is a hiking trail along it that is accessible to people with special needs. The trail is operated by “LOTEM”. LOTEM is the leading organization in Israel that offers accessible hikes and activities in nature to children and adults with special needs.
LOTEM’s headquarters are in EmekHaShalom, where it hosts groups of people with special needs and organizes hikes, workshops and nature activities. We were in EmekHaShalom when there was also a group of adults with a range of intellectual disorders. We watched them press grapes to prepare grape juice and we saw a watering system that was built for the height of somebody in a wheelchair so that he too can operate it.
Paula Friedland guided us in the site and showed us how everything is accessible to the disabled. She told us the story about a boy who grew up in YokneamMoshava and hiked NahalHaShofet with his friends. He would hike on a trail that led to a particular cave there, until he was in a car accident and became paralyzed. When LOTEM was planning to construct the accessible trail, they took this boy there and asked what they can do to bring back his experience of hiking. He told them that they should build the trail in a way so that he can return to the cave. This is what they did. This was very emotional for me.
Paula also told us about her son who fell when he was in a tour guiding course before he went into the army. The fall caused him to be paralyzed over his whole body, except for his head. However, he is now a commander in the army and he still loves to hike. Due to her son’s injury, Paula decided to volunteer with LOTEM and then to work there. She explained how she worked for the organization and how the inner strength of her son changed her life.
I feel blessed that I can hike in nature and climb but I also acknowledge the fact that not everybody has this privilege. I very much value the work of LOTEM that enables people with special needs to experience the nature.
Nature is so therapeutic and it is unfortunate that so much of it is not accessible to everybody. Many of us take hiking in the outdoors for granted. However, LOTEM understands that this is not so and they are doing something to change the situation.
To make a tax-exempt donation to LOTEM, please click here.