(Courtesy of Shalva) This Chanukah, Jerusalem kicked off the holiday season dressed in purple to support the Shalva organization, which provides direct-care services to over 2,000 individuals with disabilities and their families. As millions of Jews around the world gathered to celebrate the festival of lights with candle-lighting ceremonies, the city of Jerusalem took the mandate of “lighting up the night” to a whole new level with the unprecedented gesture of illuminating city landmarks in recognition of a non-profit, social-service organization.
“We salute what Shalva is doing in Israel, which I think is a beacon to the entire world,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. “What Shalva recognizes is that every human being has a soul.”
Shalva was founded in Jerusalem 30 years ago and has profoundly shaped Israel’s social services for people with disabilities and impacted their inclusion in Israeli society and beyond. The internationally popular Shalva Band became a nationwide favorite through the Rising Star to the Eurovision television program last winter. The band continued on to many prominent stages like the Israeli National Independence Day ceremony at Mt. Herzl, their historic performance at the 2019 Eurovision Song contest and most recently at the IAC Summit earlier this month with U.S. President Trump.
The Shalva National Center operates around the clock with rehabilitative services and programs for over 2,000 individuals with disabilities and their families. Their programs include early intervention therapies, inclusive educational frameworks, social and recreational activities, sports teams, summer camps and overnight respite sleepovers for children with disabilities. The organization also offers a host of services for adults, including vocational training courses, employment opportunities, voluntary military service with the IDF and independent living in the community. Parents and family members benefit from ongoing professional counseling, support groups and events.
For Shalva, this year’s first night of Chanukah marked the highlight of a month-long fundraising campaign with a special television broadcast on the Keshet Media Group Channel 12. The 90-minute broadcast included performances by the Shalva Band with celebrity artists and featured success stories of Shalva program participants, following their journeys with personal interviews and video documentaries. Throughout the broadcast, viewers were asked to sponsor therapy sessions at the cost of 180 NIS, amounting to donations for 33,000 therapy sessions for Shalva’s children with disabilities. The fundraising campaign is continuing until the end of December, with donations being made directly to the Shalva organization and the goal of reaching sponsorships for 40,000 therapy sessions.
“Our children receive several therapies every day, in all the paramedical fields, which help them grow and develop to reach their fullest potentials,” explained Avi Samuels, Shalva’s Global Chairman. “We believe that every person can contribute positively to the community-at-large, and when we work together to support one another everyone benefits. This broadcast is one of many efforts toward creating a stronger, healthier society.”
In addition to illuminated landmarks, Jerusalem also hosted the traditional national candle-lighting ceremony, which takes place in the Old City of Jerusalem, the historical location of the Chanukah miracle. A survey published by the Jewish People Policy Institute last year reveals that Chanukah is one of the most popular Jewish holidays worldwide. Seventy-three percent of Israelis light Chanukah candles every night of the eight-day holiday and almost every Israeli lights Chanukah candles several times throughout the holiday. Other customs of this iconic holiday are widely popular as well, with 79% of Israelis eating sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), 64% giving gifts to children and 42% attending a holiday event.