CBN Israel Helps Provide Wartime Support for Evacuees Who Have Children with Disabilities

By Nicole Jansezian

Shalva—the national center for people with disabilities in Jerusalem—was already bursting at the seams, but after the October 7 massacre, the organization established a national crisis center and opened its doors to evacuees from around Israel. 

“We always think we’re at capacity and then new programs come along and, somehow, we always find a way to make it work,” Director of Development Gaby Hirsch told CBN Israel.

Long before the war, CBN Israel supported Shalva, which receives 1,000 children with disabilities on a daily basis for a variety programs from birth through young adulthood. But when Shalva welcomed hundreds more after the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7, CBN Israel also expanded its support to Shalva in order to aid the wartime effort.

“CBN has become significant partners in Shalva and now, in time of war, they’ve upped the ante and continued to help us in the most meaningful and significant ways,” said Kalman Samuels, Shalva’s president and founder.

Among its many wartime initiatives, Shalva provided housing to an entire boarding school of at-risk teenage girls and the staff after their kibbutz—which overlooks the Gaza Strip—became a military zone. 

Then, Shalva created an essential daily program for evacuees who have children with special needs. Placed temporarily in Jerusalem hotels—and without therapies and their normal routine—the children were climbing the walls at these hotels. Being able to come to Shalva for therapies and organized activities was a godsend for these parents. 

“Shalva’s role has been a game changer for these families,” said Nicky Cregor, a Jerusalem Municipality social worker responsible for assimilating evacuated children with special needs into local frameworks. “A whole network was set up with over a hundred children who are coming to Shalva, enjoying the amazing resources here.”

In addition, Shalva allowed the residents of Naveh—an entire community evacuated from near the Gaza border to a Jerusalem hotel—to use their meeting facilities as classrooms so that Naveh’s elementary school girls could continue their education uninterrupted. 

“Fortunately enough, we had Shalva right next door open their doors, open their hearts, and let us in,” Zion Leshem, a Naveh resident, told CBN Israel. “Whatever we need, they are here for us as a community that’s been displaced and evacuated and we know that our basic needs are met.” 

Gaby said that Shalva stands ready to take in more people if need be. 

“We already have hundreds of people who are staying here and that we are servicing—some are sleeping here and some are using the facilities—but this is all here ready in case we have to bring up thousands more evacuees,” Hirsch said pointing to mattresses and other equipment stored in the warehouse.

Kalman said it is amazing to see how traumatized people have “come to life” after a few weeks of receiving the care and a warm welcome that Shalva provided. 

“For donors of CBN, I can only say that for every dollar you want to put toward a humanitarian cause that is not just touching lives, but is impacting and changing lives, this is one of those places.”  

Nicole Jansezian is the media coordinator for CBN Israel. A long-time journalist, Nicole was previously the news editor of All Israel News and All Arab News and a journalist at The Associated Press. On her YouTube channel, Nicole gives a platform to the minority communities in Jerusalem and highlights stories of fascinating people in this intense city. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., she lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Tony, and their three children.

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