The latest blooming in Israel’s Negev Desert is particularly relevant in February, which is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. At Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran —a rehabilitation village in southern Israel that serves people with severe disabilities—residents benefit from green therapy, which uses gardening and nature to help give the special needs community a higher quality of life. Green therapy participants are brought to a greenhouse on the Aleh Negev campus, where they are greeted with flowers, shrubs, and herbs that they work to plant and care for. It is also a therapeutic haven where all of the senses are stimulated.
The greenhouse only uses non-toxic plants and those without seeds or pits, in order to keep the environment safe for all the participants. Since the village started using this form of therapy, staffers have noted a dramatic change in the behavior of those who participate.
Stav Herling-Gosher, an Aleh Negev spokesperson, says the participants are “very dependent on their surroundings and get assistance through the help of others,” yet through green therapy, they are “able to see that other living things are dependent on them.” By showing concern for their creations, such as by checking on whether the plants have been sufficiently watered or had enough sunlight, Aleh Negev residents can see and feel the results of their labor when their plants grow and thrive—much like themselves.
Aleh Negev works in partnership with Israel-based Derech HaYadiim, an organization that provides green therapy.
A village in every sense of the word, Aleh Negev is currently home to over 140 young people who are encouraged to develop a greater degree of independence in order to become productive members of Israeli society. It provides a continuum of residential care for children with severe disabilities as they grow from adolescents into young adults, and empowers them to interact with the outside world, develop a greater degree of independence and live quality lives while realizing their full potential.
Read more at JNS.