Israel – September 29, 2013 – Yardena and Geoffrey Miller from Woodmere, NY could not have asked for a better way to celebrate their daughter Sigal’s bat mitzvah than with a family trip to Israel. The Millers did not want to compromise on this trip in any way, even though Sigal is in a wheelchair.
It was important for them to be able to see and experience everything they wanted to in Israel, without leaving Sigal behind. Since no trip to Israel is complete without a hike or nature outing, the Millers knew that they would have to find such an activity where Sigal could be included. Thanks to the Jewish National Fund and the nonprofit organization LOTEM- Making Nature Accessible, this was possible.
The Miller’s trip to Israel culminated with a visit to LOTEM’s ecological farm and hiking trail located in the north of Israel, outside the city of Yokneam. The Millers were greeted on the farm by Raz, a national service guide with LOTEM. Raz was injured 10 years ago in a car accident, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Raz led the Millers in an activity where they got to make perfume from hand-picked herbs. A group of teenagers from the Bet Eckstein School for special education in Pardes Hana who were on a fieldtrip with LOTEM that morning then threw a surprise party for Sigal. They presented her with a birthday cake and surrounded her in song. It was very moving for the entire Miller family.
After the bat mitzvah celebration, the Millers hiked LOTEM’s all-inclusive trail in the KKL-JNF Nahal HaShofet Nature Park. This fully accessible trail is the only one of its kind in Israel. Raz led the Millers on the hike and shared his story with them. When he was a young boy, he used to come to this nature park with his friends. Unfortunately after his injury, he no longer had a place where he can hike together with his friends. Thanks to JNF and LOTEM as well as other donors who funded the construction of an accessible trail in the Nahal HaShofet Nature Park, Raz and many others have a beautiful place where they can hike together and connect to the Land of Israel.
“It was a lot of fun”, Sigal’s fifteen year old brother Gabriel said after hiking with his sister. “It’s something I have not had the chance to do until now”.
“There are not many places where one can take a child like Sigal so it is special that we were able to come to Israel to celebrate as a family”, explained Yardena, Sigal’s mother. Sigal’s older brother Joseph added, “It’s Important to include everybody”.
LOTEM- Making Nature Accessible is the leading organization in Israel offering accessible hikes and educational nature activities to people with special needs. A JNF partner organization, LOTEM brings the Land of Israel to all the people of Israel.
LOTEM also has a “Mitzvah-to-Mitzvah” program for bar and bat mitzvah youth to help them add meaning to their simcha. Bnai mitzvah can select LOTEM as their tzedakah project. On their next trip to Israel, they are invited to lead a hike or nature outing together with one of LOTEM’s soldier guides which culminates in a bar or bat mitzvah celebration on LOTEM’s farm.