On Friday, March 17, the Jerusalem Police Department joined forces with four of Israel’s most prestigious law firms for the seventh annual Jerusalem Winner Marathon, working together to raise funds for ALEH (www.ALEH.org), Israel’s foremost network of state-of-the-art facilities for children with severe complex disabilities.
Though police officers and lawyers don’t always see eye to eye, the JPD and the law firms of Herzog Fox & Neeman (HFN), Epstein Rosenblum Maoz (ERM), Yigal Arnon & Co., and Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal (Meitar) are of one mind when it comes to supporting ALEH’s residential facilities across the country. Both sides of the law are unified in their passion to promote the true inclusion of Israeli children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Throughout the winter, officers from the JPD have been making weekly visits to ALEH’s residential facility in Jerusalem to train with the residents for the upcoming Marathon. With the aim of giving their ALEH running partners a leg up, many of the police officers will be wearing children who cannot use walkers in special “walking harnesses.” Because they will be connected, every step taken by an officer is also taken by the child, giving children who have never even moved their own legs the ability to “run” in the marathon.
Now in its fourth year, the inspiring project has captured the hearts of disability advocates around the world. The most recent fan is Roni Alsheikh, the former deputy head of the Shabak and current Chief of Israeli Police, who recently visited ALEH Jerusalem to watch a training session.
“Our role as police officers is twofold: to serve and protect. It is important for us to remember that we are here to serve the citizens and not just deal with the criminals. It is our responsibility to provide services to citizens on the streets, as well as seek out opportunities to give back to the community,” said Chief of Police Alsheikh during the visit. “As police officers, it is our job to be model citizens and lend a hand to the weakest members of society. Working with ALEH is the ideal project for my police officers in that it helps remind them who they are as human beings and why they became police officers in the first place.”
Shlomit Grayevsky, director of ALEH Jerusalem, explained that the initiative started out as a limited volunteer commitment for the police officers but soon became their favorite weekly activity. In fact, many of them have expanded their volunteerism at ALEH over the past three years, visiting the Jerusalem facility whenever they can.
“ALEH’s goal is to give every individual with complex disabilities in Israel the opportunity to reach their fullest potentials. We work hard to change the way people view those with disabilities, so that they are embraced and included, instead of shunned or forgotten,” said Grayevsky.
“This amazing project with the Jerusalem Police Department is the perfect way to show the world that individuals with disabilities should not be counted out. These amazing kids are pushing their limits and surprising us more and more each day. All it takes is the love and dedication of individuals who truly care—our unparalleled professional staff and incredible volunteers like Jerusalem’s courageous and kind men and women in blue.”
While the police officers tackle the 500-meter “Community Track” with their ALEH running partners, 25 lawyers from HFN, ERM, Yigal Arnon & Co., and Meitar will be pounding the pavement in the 10K race as members of ALEH Ascend, the organization’s official running team.
“The Jerusalem Marathon is a thrilling challenge and it’s also the ultimate expression of unity, inclusion and triumph over boundaries of all kinds. We were inspired by the Jerusalem Police Department, and we wanted to do our part to ensure the unrestricted growth and true inclusion of Israeli children and adults with severe complex disabilities,” said Asher Sacks, an associate at Herzog Fox & Neeman and the son of Judith Sacks, chair of the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee.
“My mother has been involved with ALEH for years, and it became clear to me that ALEH was an organization for all people and deserved wide support. I made it my mission this year to introduce ALEH’s amazing work to a new crowd of Tel Aviv professionals who will hopefully continue to spread the message further.”
Recruiting an impressive ALEH Ascend team for the Jerusalem Marathon was the first of many ways that ALEH Jerusalem will be marking its 20th anniversary this year. Under the theme “The Unification of all People in Jerusalem,” a nod to the 50th anniversary of the historic reunification of Jerusalem, ALEH will be organizing and hosting several events to celebrate its impact on the acceptance and inclusion of individuals with disabilities in Israel’s capital over the past two decades.
Events will include the seventh annual “ALEH Marches Forward” event on the Jerusalem Chords Bridge, a powerful and symbolic display to encourage “bridging” the inclusion gap for individuals with disabilities in Israeli society; the inauguration of the new state-of-the-art rehabilitation floor at ALEH’s Jerusalem facility; and a gala dinner to mark the anniversary and honor the memory of Rivka Chervin-Weinberger, founder and longtime chair of the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee.
By Ayala Asher