Swimming the Kinneret to Aid Special Needs Young Adults

Tags: Inclusion, Israel Engagement

By Rochel Sylvetsky

The Sea of Galilee, which is not a sea at all, but is instead Israel's largest lake and the world's second lowest body of water (the Dead Sea being the lowest) is also called the Kinneret in the Bible – perhaps because it is shaped somewhat like an ancient harp, a kinor - and termed the Tiberian Sea by the Talmudic sages for its proximity to the city of that name.

Israel's poetess, Rachel, lived on its shores before the establishment of the state. Inspired and mesmerized by the tranquil blue waters meeting the cloudless skies, she wrote: "Oh my Kinneret, my Kinneret, were you real or did I dream a dream?"

And a dream will come true on Friday, June 5 at the 6th annual Women's Sadnat Shiluv BeEmunah Swimathon, an event in which hundreds of grandmothers, mothers and daughters, along with special needs youngsters and their friends - only those over the age of 10 - swim the Kinneret to raise funds for a unique residential project for young adults with special needs named Sadnat Shiluv (Mainstreaming Workshop), and located in the young Gush Etzion community Gvaot. Women from the USA, European countries and South Africa as well as every corner of Israel, come to join in the event.

In previous years, the Women's Annual Swimathon enabled the building a Visitor's Center with a cafeteria and shop where the Sadnat Shiluv's young adults will serve light meals and sell their home grown produce and dairy products, and the addition of extra housing so that the facility could accept additional residents and also funded the creation of an animal therapy center with therapeutic horseback riding.

It all began five years ago when Vivian Glazer, mother of Elchanan, was searching for ways to help the Sadnat Shiluv educational framework. "It started as a one-time project. We enlisted our neighbors, friends, even the residents' parents and managed to create an event filled with much love and spirit, based on the desire to give to others. Now it has become a tradition", she explains.

"Sadnat Shiluv" is intended to see to it that special needs adults will get a chance to maximize their individual potential and feel part of the community", says.project administrator Tamar Hechsher, noting that the Sadna promotes a different kind of education, "unique, flexible, open, tuned in to nature and the environment.

The educational activity is interwoven with the day-to-day life of the young families who have made their homes in Gvaot, so that these special needs young adults will fit in and contribute to the welfare of the entire community.They learn to manage working, all the while gaining independence and adjusting to living in a residential facility that is part of a larger community."

The swimmers themselves manage to have good fun as well. In addition to the warm camaraderie that marks the scene every year, there will be a festive dinner on Thursday evening at Kibbutz Haon (which will be open only for the participating swimmers) including entertainment – and then a careful review of safety rules.

There is a sleeping option at the Tzemach Beach (which will be open only to women for the remainder of the event) or at a nearby hotel. Swimmers can begin at Haon Beach and swim 3.5 km or at Maagan Beach for a 1.5 km swim, but both tracks end at Tzemach Beach for the final closing ceremony at 10:00 a.m on Friday.

Shaped like a harp, the Kinneret will be all heart as the women dive in to building an inclusive Israel.


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Tags: Inclusion, Israel Engagement