Jewish Institute for the Blind
events in complete silence except when goals are scored; is it possible?
OK, maybe if you are talking about a tennis match or golf competition. But
otherwise, universally cheering, heckling and all kinds of sounds abound.
Expect when the competitors are visually impaired and blind.
Students at the Jewish Institute for
the Blind, play ball competitively. In sports the ability to decipher the
location of a ball based on where the sound is originating from and traveling
to determine the difference between athletic prowess and simply participating
in a game of football (soccer).
The day that I visited the Jewish
Institute for the Blind, a group of soldiers were spending a volunteer “fun
day” at Jewish Institute for the Blind together with the students. At first
the gym was divided into four relay race stations and the students and soldiers
were grouped into teams. Later, they played the Institute’s version of soccer;
three goalies vs. three goalies, everyone blindfolded. The tension built as
one the offensive player released the ball, and it rolled across the gym
floor. The sounds changed as the ball veered on its course. Two goalies moved
towards the ball and the goal was averted. Once the ball was secured, cheers
and clapping sounded from the kids on the sidelines. All of them called for
silenced and hushed one another so the game could resume.
To enable those who are visually impaired
to workout independently, coarse tape is laid on the floor of the workout
room indicating where to get on and off different machines. The treadmills
all have Braille on the display enabling the students to set and monitor
their own pace and skill level.
An invention we also saw was table
ball. You guessed it: table ball is a variation on a combination of various
table-oriented games. Table ball was created especially for the students
by the Institute’s Assistant Director, Shabi Deutsch.
Founded in Jerusalem’s Old City in
1902 by Abraham Moshe Lunz and Nahum Nathanzon, the Institute moved to its
current location in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood in 1932. According to
Ronnie Kahn, chairman of the British Aid Society for the Jewish Institute
for the Blind, the dormitories have not been updated since the 1930s. The
rooms and the furnishings are in desperate need of refurnishing and re-modeling,
to make them habitable for the 21st Century. The British Aid Society is aiming
to refurbish the dormitories as part of their centennial campaign.
The school seeks to provide both scholastic and social tools to help students
graduate with the ability to lead independent meaningful lives. Many of the
Institute’s graduates have become teachers, social workers, psychologists,
lawyers and poets. In fact, Israeli poet Erez Biton, a graduate of the Institute,
is also the former chairman of the Hebrew Writers Association. As needs change, so does the Jewish
Institute for the Blind. Today many of its students confront significant
additional disabilities in addition to visual impairment. The students come
from homes throughout Israel.
Text: M. Kaplan-Green.