Special needs facility built on ‘determination and faith’

Special needs facility built on ‘determination and faith’

Turning tragedies into triumphs

The medical catastrophe that started the chain of events leading to Shalva’s founding by Malki and Kalman Samuels was not the only time the center has been touched by disaster.

In October 1994, Hamas terrorists kidnapped Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman, who was then killed during an attempted rescue operation. His younger brother, Raphael, was a Shalva participant. When the news of the hostage’s death reached Jerusalem, Kalman Samuels went to the Wachsman home and took Raphael to stay at Shalva until the shiva week was over.

People all over the world asked the grieving Wachsman parents what they could do in Nachshon’s memory. Their response was, donate to Shalva. The resultant outpouring of contributions enabled Shalva to build its six-story facility in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. It is called Beit Nachshon, House of Nachshon.

About six years later, a wave of Arab terrorist attacks (the second intifada) targeted motorists on the highways in and out of Jerusalem’s suburbs. “Families of special-needs children had to deal with the added stress of the security situation as well as caring for their challenged child,” recalls Kalman Samuels.

The solution was to found a satellite location in Gush Etzion, the bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem. Initially housed in an apartment, the second center eventually received a building of its own.

The most recent tragedy to strike the Shalva community was the murder of Elizabeth “Lily” Goren, a psychologist who volunteered with the center’s graduate program for disabled women ages 21 to 36. For the past 10 years, she addressed their concerns about sexuality, trust, personal finances, and everyday life skills.

Goren was one of three victims of an Israeli Arab who crushed buses and cars with a bulldozer on a busy Jerusalem thoroughfare on July 2.

In the Jerusalem Post on July 18, Shalva’s director of communications, Andrea Simantov, wrote: “[W]e still have few answers to offer these girls, and many are still waiting to talk about things with Lily.” However, she continued, “[A]fter all is said and done, Shalva is about growth, hope, love, and dignity. With or without tragedy, the world of ‘special needs’ demands abundant reserves of joy.”

Kalman Samuels puts it simply: “Providing hope – that’s the theme song here,” he says.

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