Excited to be chosen for the EDI GSL Experience in Israel

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pictures and Facts from Weeks 1 and 2 at Israel Elwyn

Hi Everyone!

Sorry I haven't posted recently. Laura and I have both been exhausted by how much traveling we do during the week (and on weekends!). Some of the cities we have visited in the last week include:

  • Beit Shemesh
  • Nes Harim
  • Haifa
  • Yokneam
  • Ra' anana
  • Tel Aviv
  • Herzliya
We have visited many sheltered workshops, integrated competitive employment workplaces, residential apartments for people with disabilities, and recreational and educational facilities for people with disabilities of all ages. We have had the pleasure of meeting with people from Israel Elwyn offices in Jerusalem, Haifa & Northern Israel, El Quds (located in the Old City, designed to provide services to Arabic speakers), and Sharon & Central Israel.

This is a gift shop where workers in the sheltered workshop can buy personal items with their salaries
Here are some brief notes that I wrote down while talking with Elwyn staff and affiliates:

  • People working in sheltered workshops get a government subsidy for transportation; however, people who move to supported employment lose the transportation subsidy unless the person lives in a government-funded supported housing setting
  • Many sheltered workshops in Israel pay workers between 200-500 shekels per month (less than $140 USD)
  • The NGOs in Israel that provide housing and employment services to people with disabilities have to apply to receive money to provide services to specific individuals
  • Approximately 70% of people with disabilities live at home with their families, 30% are in institutions, group homes, or apartments
Scanning station that people with disabilities use to scan large documents

Mainly, the people with disabilities scan documents for Hebrew University
People with disabilities took apart old electronics in order to recycle the parts

This is a break room at one of the highest paying sheltered workshops in Jerusalem
One of the things I found very interesting at the sheltered workshops and the competitive supported employment settings was the fact that Israel implements an adapted minimum wage. According to this policy, a person with a disability can make less money based on lower productivity than a non-disabled peer worker.

Shelter workshop where the workers were packaging puzzles

Some of the pottery goods that people with disabilities made for sale in local markets and malls
Laura and I also got to speak with some Elwyn staff about vocational rehabilitation services that Elwyn offers. One of the programs we found to be quite impressive was one that the office in Herzliya mentioned. This program attracts young people (teens to early twenties) to come to the office to socialize and discuss proper work etiquette. The Elwyn facilitator sets up flashcards and activities to encourage discussion and participation.
These flashcards explain why this body language is inappropriate in a job interview or workplace

Last weekend, I traveled to Tel Aviv and met up with my friend, Hannah Loeb, a music education major at University of Rhode Island and former co-worker when I used to work at a Jewish preschool day camp. We had fun at the port and at the beaches in Tel Aviv.
My friend, Hannah, and me on the beach in Tel Aviv

This weekend, I spent time with an employee from the Commission at her home in Ramot, Jerusalem. I slept over and went to pray at their neighborhood's synagogue 4 times! It was a great experience to turn off all electronics and focus on resting on the holy sabbath. Her husband and six children (ages 9 to 22) are a very welcoming bunch and I really appreciated that they "showed me the ropes" of how to keep all the rules of the sabbath. I certainly learned a lot about Judaism, Israel, and family values.
Shabbat is all about being with family. These families came to spend Shabbat with people living in Ramot (like me!) and were waiting to catch buses back to their own homes
 Laura and I were able to spend a lunch with Judge Steve Adler last Saturday. We had great conversations, excellent food, and a restful Shabbat. This week we were visited by Dr. Susanne Bruyere and were able to attend the Tower of David Evening Light Show with Rivka and Susanne. We also briefly visited Caesarea with Dr. Bruyere after we spent two days in Haifa.

Looking back on the last two weeks, I find it astonishing how much I have learned and how many places I have visited and how many people I have met. Laura and I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone that has helped us along the way (there are DEFINITELY too many names to mention).

In less than a week, Laura and I will be back in the USA. As we begin to pack and say our last goodbyes to everyone here in Israel, we both hope to be back in Israel in the near future. We are very much looking forward to sharing pictures and notes with the Employment and Disability Institute (EDI) in the ILR School at Cornell. Laura and I hope that our discussions with Elwyn and the Commission will prompt more in-depth conversations about disability employment policies and practices long after we return to America.


  1. Lawrence, thank you for such a great post! I enjoyed getting a better understanding of both the work you are doing and culture of Israel. - Kate

  2. Thanks much for such a thorough post Lawrence. Very interesting! Enjoy your last week! -Erin