Wish At The Wall Takes Disabled, Chronically Ill Teens To Israel – First-Ever Teen Tour For Adolescents Denied Opportunity

chai_lifeline_lakewoodIt is almost a rite of passage for teens: the group tour that builds friendship, confidence, and maturity through independent travel to another country. But until now, teens with severe chronic illnesses and disabilities have been cut off from peer travel experiences.

Today, Chai Lifeline will take 13 ill and disabled teenagers on a unique, 10-day excursion to Israel. They will travel from the Golan Heights to the Negev desert, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and everything in between. They will visit the same attractions and see the same sights as healthy teens.

The trip, which leaves New York today, is believed to be the first Israel adventure created especially for disabled and chronically ill teens. Eleven of the 13 participants are confined to wheelchairs.

The itinerary suggests a rigorous tour. The preliminary schedule includes a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea, travel to Tiberias and an army base near the northern border, an afternoon in the mystical city of Safed and a jeep tour of the lower Galilee. The group will spend two weekends in Jerusalem.

 “This is a teen travel encounter in every sense of the word,” said Rivkah Reichmann, LMSW, the associate director of Camp Simcha Special, Chai Lifeline’s overnight summer camp for children and teens with chronic illness and disabilities. “This is not the kind of tour where you sit in the bus and watch the country go by. Our travelers will experience Israel close up, like every other teenager.”

When they get to Masada, program director Nachman Maimon stated, they will ascend via cable car and then climb the final feet like every other tourist.

“Our goal is to help them feel ‘normal.’ To us, and them, it means being prepared to push themselves those last several feet to the top.” (Those who need help won’t be stranded: counselors are along to provide any needed assistance.)

Unique trip with a twist: parents will enjoy along with teens

Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president, agreed that there were few changes from the typical teen trip to Israel. “There are only two differences. We have a full medical team with the group, and each child is accompanied by a parent on the tour.”

The presence of a medical team assures the safety of participants in a foreign country. But Rabbi Scholar emphasized that the presence of a parent is not because he believes that the teen participants will not be able to keep up with the rigors of each day.

“Wish at the Wall originally began as a way of celebrating the end of cancer treatments, and participation was limited to former cancer patients. Several years ago, we invited parents to share their children’s excitement and joy. We discovered that the trip was meaningful and important to parents as well as teens. They saw their children differently as healthier, more independent, and better able to move forward with their lives afterwards”.

“We believe parents’ beliefs in the possibilities of their children’s lives will be vastly different when they return,” he asserted. TLS.

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