Aliyah Ride Forever

Treatment for the Soul: My Israel Inspiration

Tags: Athletes4Israel

By Zagny Ormut-Durbin

I didn’t stay in Israel because my family moved here, or because of stories and promises of the homeland mixed with religious inspiration (though the stories and family connections exist).

At my Zionist parents’ gentle prodding, I left my home in the efficient, worldly Hong Kong for what I perceived to be this middle-of-nowhere place called Israel to study Hebrew on a kibbutz before I studied at a university in Melbourne.

My only plan was to get through the Israel experience. Yet, at the end, I was the one working to convince my skeptical parents to let me stay. This jumpy, always-has-to-know-what’s-going-to-happen-before-doing-anything person decided to swap the rather predictable straight path I saw waiting in Australia for this upside-down, inside out and on-it’s-head place – for exactly those reasons.

Seven years later, and there’s no regretting that decision. My immediate family moved here a few years ago, and my "adopted" family – made up of a wonderful boyfriend, dog and friends – are all here. The sunsets still capture me, the people still confuse and amaze me, and I’m still discovering new things in this complex place.

One lucky discovery has been ALYN. Granted, my dad discovered the rehabilitation center several years earlier, and had been so struck by what they do that he’d gotten in shape and taken part in the annual five-day charity bike ride - something he has done for several years now.

I was brought up seeing the power and importance of charity and doing charity. So, when I met my dad at the end of the long ride in 2012 for the closing ceremony, extremely exhausted but overwhelmingly joyful, it seemed natural to dedicate time and energy to such an inspiring place. Maybe I wouldn’t get on a bike, but I could be one of the many volunteers trying to raise as much money as possible and working on the five day ride in any way. It was a simple enough decision.

Several months later, I visited the hospital again with my dad and some friends who have committed themselves to the 2013 ride and we couldn’t stop being amazed.

We’d heard it was a special rehabilitation center for kids. We knew one of its achievements is helping kids and their families away from the idea that a mostly disabled, limited life in an institution apart from their family and lives. We’d heard it was highly successful in proving that impression wrong in most cases.

A lot of talk, I thought. Another place, albeit another extremely important and extraordinary one as all of them are, that does its best to treat kids. But what made ALYN the one out of all the others to give attention and time to?

Then we were shown around, and it hit me. It hit all of us.

The lengths and treatment they go to at that hospital are all about the children and their families, about the importance of a life well and truly lived by each and every child as is their RIGHT as human beings.

It is about all those important things: about how vital family is (parents especially are a mandatory part of treatment), about every child being given the opportunity to truly experience childhood (whether it’s swimming, or biking on a specially-reconfigured bike to fit the child’s disability, or studying in a classroom and making friends with other kids and families no matter where they are from), and about treating the soul. If the soul exists, ALYN and its amazing staff and volunteers – not to mention the children themselves – have dedicated everything to improving the state of it. And succeed on a daily basis.

And this 5-day bike ride?

As a wise man said—if these kids can do what they do and work so hard at just living, and living well, every day of their lives—the least we can do is take part in that ride, or contribute what ever we can to making sure those who need it keep getting these chances for the special treatment they so desperately need and deserve.

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Tags: Athletes4Israel