But just in time for the holiday, he got a firsthand look at a far more uplifting development on Tuesday: the grand opening of the Harvey and Gloria Kaylie Rehabilitation Medical Center—the first-ever rehabilitation hospital in Israel’s southern Negev region.
Under the auspices of ADI, which describes itself as Israel’s leading provider of rehabilitative care for people of all levels of ability, the new rehabilitation, research and social center aims to establish a model of community-based inclusive health services, increase the number of Israel’s rehabilitative hospital beds dramatically, bring quality care to the underserved residents of the country’s south, and create more housing and jobs in the Negev.
“This is a momentous and historic day for the State of Israel because we are embracing the empathy that defines our true national character and enhancing the lives of individuals touched by disability, those who cannot care for themselves,” Bennett told the event’s 400 attendees. “This incredible hospital will put the Negev on the map in numerous ways.”
Bennett added that Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog, the founder and chairman of the ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village, and Almog’s wife, Didi, represent “everything that is beautiful about Israel.”
The couple’s son, Eran, was born with severe disabilities and died from Castleman disease at the age of 23. The Almogs proceeded to create and develop the rehabilitation village, a community where people from diverse backgrounds and all levels of ability can live, heal and grow together.
“We face many challenges and hardships throughout our lifetimes, and we show our mettle by how we respond to these experiences,” the prime minister said. “The very best among us use these occurrences to fuel their passions, to build and enhance the world around them, to bring hope to others. Doron and Didi Almog are rays of light who tapped into their pain and heartbreak to empower others and ensure that every person is valued as a member of our society, treated with dignity and provided with love beyond measure.”
Almog said that “by establishing the first-ever rehabilitation hospital in Israel’s south, we will be able to expand our reach and deepen our commitment to empowering those touched by disability and their families while also making the Negev bloom in every way imaginable.”
According to ADI, there are currently only 850 rehabilitation hospital beds available to Israel’s 9 million citizens, and none of them are in the Negev. Consequently, residents of the south who require inpatient rehabilitation are hospitalized in central Israel, placing a strain on their families due to the travel distances involved with visiting their loves ones.
“The opening of the rehabilitation hospital—only the third of its kind in all of Israel—is a welcome development for the residents of the Negev,” said Dr. Itzhak Siev-Ner, director of the new rehabilitation hospital. “By opening sub-departments with innovative specialties in neurological and orthopedic rehabilitation, we will have uniquely skilled teams that will provide the very best care in every area of rehabilitation.”
‘An oasis of caring’
In September 2014, the Israeli government passed a resolution to match every dollar raised for the rehabilitation hospital’s establishment. After receiving support from multiple government ministries, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) and other international contributors, including the Kaylie Foundation, the rehabilitation hospital is set to begin admitting patients later this month.
While the hospital will initially feature two 36-bed wards for neurological and orthopedic rehabilitation, a third 36-bed ward for geriatric rehabilitation will be added within one year.
“Chaverim (‘friends’), we are witnessing the pinnacle of Jewish National Fund-USA’s impact,” T. Lungwitz, president of the International Board of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran and a JNF-USA Ambassador, said during the ceremony on April 12. “Just look around you. Where others saw rocky plains, we and the people of ADI Negev saw hope. Where others saw remote wilderness, together we saw opportunity. And while many sought to escape the hot desert heat, we created an oasis—not just of beautiful gardens and buildings, but an oasis of caring; where our community’s most vulnerable receive the love, support and rehabilitative care that they deserve.”
Lungwitz continued, saying “strategically, ADI Negev is fulfilling Jewish National Fund-USA’s vision for Israel’s south. A project of this size and scope creates thousands of direct and indirect jobs that boost the local economy and enable those in the country’s center to move here knowing that they will experience a high quality of life for them and their children.”
Monica Suissa, JNF-USA’s director in San Diego, told JNS that JNF-USA’s mission “is to promote high standards of living in Israel’s frontier regions, create abundant job opportunities that allow communities to flourish, encourage inclusion and coexistence between all of Israel’s beautifully diverse communities, and pioneer innovative philanthropic programs that affect positive change.”
“ADI-Negev embodies all these goals and ambitions in one vibrant state-of-the-art medical residential village where severely disabled Israelis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds can live in dignity for their entire lives at no cost to their families while creating a ripple effect of economic and social impact growth opportunities for the surrounding communities,” said Suissa.
Alicia Kaylie Yacoby, daughter of the rehabilitation hospital’s namesakes Harvey and Gloria Kaylie, reflected on her father’s goal “to impact this world even long after he was gone.”
“He was extremely smart with a huge heart and tremendous foresight, and he never wasted time looking back, just forward to see what else he could do to improve the lives of others,” she said. “I’m delighted that through this rehab hospital he is succeeding in his goal, and I hope that others can learn from him.”