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Prof. Yoram Yovell outlines "The Path to Happiness" at SHEKEL's 35th year launch

Prof. Yoram Yovell outlines "The Path to Happiness" at SHEKEL's 35th year launch (Enlarge)

Prof. Yoram Yovell outlines "The Path to Happiness" at SHEKEL's 35th year launch

 

 

Have you ever experienced a "life-changing" event? According to psychologists they are rare. Yet, a recent event celebrating the launch of SHEKEL – Community Services for People with Special Needs' 35th year, left many people with a totally new perspective on life.

 

While more than 200 people gathered on Tuesday, October 15, at the charming open-air venue of Tel Aviv's 'Kastiel', to celebrate 35 years of SHEKEL's success in advancing people with special needs, most did not expect to go home changed in any significant way. For many, it was a first time encounter with SHEKEL's work and the idea of integrating people with disabilities into the wider community by providing programs that offer equality of opportunity in every area of life. The response was warm and highly supportive.

 

Speaking to an enrapt audience of SHEKEL event participants, famed Israeli psychiatrist and neurobiologist, Prof. Yoram Yovell, gave an eye-opening lecture on the essence and criteria of happiness. Interacting directly with the audience, while utilizing a vast body of statistical research, Yovell showed how at any given time, a person's happiness is reliant on the meaning that imbues his/her life. Yovell went on to demonstrate how meaning is a direct product of giving. And that's not all – Prof. Yovell presented evidence showing that not only are people who 'give' more likely to be happy, they are also more likely to live longer. In fact, serious volunteers are 63% more likely to exceed their life-expectancy than the rest of the population – which is certainly good news for SHEKEL's 650 volunteers! Most impressively, Prof. Yovell demonstrated that he takes his own messages to heart by contributing his inspiring lecture free of charge. All proceeds from the evening went directly to SHEKEL.

 

While Yovell captivated the minds of guests and participants, many hearts missed a beat listening to the personal story of Shoshana Tubal a SHEKEL client and employee, who contracted MS when she was 11. "I grew up in Alyn hospital from age 15" Tubal told the audience. "I would wake up feeling like a ghost. Individuality is somewhat squashed when you are one of 30 residents vying for attention care and love". Today, at 40, Shoshana lives with her partner Yuval in their home in Jerusalem. Though she relies on a motorized wheel chair and oxygen 24 hours a day, Shoshana says "my dreams are realized anew every day - this beautiful chapter of my life started in 2000 when SHEKEL came into my life." According to Shoshana, after being introduced to SHEKEL, she and SHEKEL's CEO, Clara Feldman, worked together to bring a new dream to fruition – 'Culture for All'. "This project, which I have managed for the past 14 years allows me to work while contributing to the community. It fills my life with productive activity every day. 'Culture for All' allows people with disabilities to be part of the country's cultural life – which constitutes an additional milestone to true integration of people with special needs in the community."

 

The audience was visibly moved by the personal heartfelt words of a father who described his family's personal journey as the family of a child with special needs. He shared the trepidations they faced once his daughter finished school. "We knew she needed a social life, a peer group. We knew that even if we sacrificed our own lives, as parents we could never compensate for the laughter of friends and the imperative of personal development and achieving basic independence." Describing the family's dilemma, the father went on to say how "there in the shadow of distress, we discovered SHEKEL, which, with professionalism and an encouraging smile, opened a new door for us. It was the door to an apartment that had been invested with thought and new light…, an entire professional team was there for our daughter, for us, and for a moral society committed to the needier, the weaker, the 'other'.

 

Following the father's emotionally charged words and those of Shoshana Tubal, SHEKEL's CEO Clara Feldman got up to speak, clearly moved by the two speakers who preceded her. Clara heartily thanked the guests and all those who had volunteered and contributed to the evening. She specially thanked Prof. Yoram Yovell for volunteering his lecture, chef Oded Shemesh for contributing the cocktails, Kastiel and their staff, Meshek Afaim which provided cheeses and the Golan and Carmel wineries. Special tribute was paid to Dan Alexander and his team who created SHEKEL's new logo on a voluntary basis.  

 

Clara Feldman ended by speaking of SHEKEL'S far-reaching work in advancing people with special needs through a broad spectrum of programs, including 80 apartments; employment programs; enrichment courses; Treatment Center for People with Special Needs; the SHEKEL East Jerusalem Child Development Center; programs for special needs schools; the SHEKEL Autism Center; innovative new programs for children and adults with Asperger syndrome, and much more.

 

For many of the guests, the event proved an evening of true discovery.

 

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