Tuesday, October 20, 2015 4:17 PM
A Special Place for Special Children
Dimona’s Ben Gurion Park, which is accessible to people with disabilities, was inaugurated at a special ceremony attended by a delegation of Friends of JNF Holland. Thanks to from the support of JNF Holland, the park has been upgraded, rendered accessible to people with special needs and equipped with unique playground sculptures. An artificial lake is now under construction and should be completed soon.
“This is a special playground for special children,” declared Freddie Rosenberg, Director of JNF Holland, of the Ben Gurion Park in Dimona. “We are giving children with special needs the opportunity to enjoy life and nature. The JNF wants Israel to flourish for the benefit of all its residents, not just those who have the full use of all five senses and can walk unaided.”
The large, gaily-colored sculptures, which are designed to resemble insects and animals, can be used for climbing and are specially adapted to meet the needs of children with disabilities: the paths lead all the way up to the sculptures, obviating the need to cross any uneven terrain, and the broad passages are suitable for wheelchairs. The special textured materials, the bright colors and the sound-carrying installations inside the sculptures offer an experience that appeals to all the senses.
Footpaths accessible to visitors using a walking frame or wheelchair wind their way among the sculptures and the other items of playground equipment. These paths are equipped with a railing along the side that provides support for unsteady walkers. Rough-surfaced flagstones warn the blind and partially sighted of upcoming junctions or bends in the path.
The Tzabar School for Children with Special Needs, which is situated just a few hundred meters away from the park, caters to children with physical challenges including impaired vision and hearing, as well as cognitive challenges such as autism and intellectual disabilities. Pupils and staff visit the park regularly to enjoy the amenities it has to offer. As Jewish and Bedouin children learn together at the school, the park also serves as a meeting point for children from different backgrounds. In the current tense situation, we can all only hope to learn from the Tzabar schoolchildren how to live together in an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation.
KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson, who presided over the event, said during the ceremony: “In the past, parents of children with special needs had to decide whether to go to an ordinary park or to a special one for children with disabilities. Now the whole family can come to this park where all the children can play together.”
Deputy Mayor of Dimona Ariel Lalush welcomed the members of the delegation from Holland and thanked them warmly, saying, “This park will be a venue for enjoyment and recreation for the families of Dimona.”
In the afternoons, the park attracts large numbers of parents and children, and during holiday time, the local residents use it as a communal venue for family picnics. A new residential neighborhood is in the process of being built around the park – a sign that Dimona is growing and developing. The relocation of IDF bases to the Negev and the construction of the military’s training base city are expected to give the city an added boost.
“When Dimona was founded sixty years ago, many people asked who on earth would come and live here in the middle of the desert,” recalled KKL-JNF Executive Director of Resources, Development and Public Relations Avi Dickstein. “And now, today, with the help of JNF Holland, we have a special park here, and even artificial man-made lake. This represents a significant part of KKL-JNF’s activities for the development of the Negev.”
Ben Gurion Park’s recreational artificial lake is likewise being built with the support of Friends of JNF Holland. The lake is currently still under construction, and tractors and heavy equipment are working away energetically at the site. For people who live in the middle of the desert, the opportunity to get into a boat and sail round a lake is an uncommon experience. The thought of a lake full of enticing water surrounded by greenery deep in the heart of the desert is certainly very appealing. The lake is expected to attract numerous visitors and tourists and thereby boost Dimona’s economy and help to promote the Negev.
The ceremony concluded with the planting of trees that will help extend the veteran woodland that KKL-JNF has been cultivating at the site since the 1960s. These were the first trees to be planted in the park since the conclusion of the recently ended fallow year – a year in which Jewish tradition decrees that nothing should be planted so that the earth can rest.
“My heart is full of gratitude to God, to the residents of Israel and to the staff of KKL-JNF for making it possible for us come here and show Israel that it has many friends throughout the world,” said Dutch delegation member Hellen Guldner. “We may not make a lot of noise or appear prominently in the media, but it’s important to us to let you know that Israel is not alone.”