Guide Dogs Giving Eyes to the People of Israel; Helping Blind Athletes Get Back into the Game - The Jewish Voice
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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Guide Dogs Giving Eyes to the People of Israel; Helping Blind Athletes Get Back into the Game

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Israel Guide Dog Group in New York at Bike Race on Sunday June 10.It was around Chanukah of 1986 when Noach Braun had came to the United States from Israel with a mission: to create an organization to supply seeing eye guide dogs for the blind in Israel.  Despite all of the great social help organizations is Israel, there were no guide dogs available in Israel for the Blind. Chanukah came in celebration of the miracle of the survival of the Jewish people and the first light of Chanukah also brought to Noach his miracle, he met Norman and Phyllis Leventhal of Pennsylvania.

Noach spent that year in the United States volunteering at the Jewish Guild for the Blind and paying his bills by working at a moving company and working with Norman and Phyliss to create the beginnings of what would become the Israel Guide Dog Center. For Noach, this was a dream come true as he always had a love for animals. Living and working on a Kibbutz tending to cows and other animals and as a paratrooper in the IDF working with dogs, as Noach states, “It allowed me to combine my love of four legs and bring it to two legs.”

Noach thought that it would be easy to create an organization for helping the blind, it was not as simple as he had anticipated. Years of hard work and lots of red tape and finally Noach Braun can point to one of the great social help organizations in Israel with pride. The Israel Guide Dog Center for the blind, in the past 20 years, has placed over 400 guide dogs, has 170 partnerships and at least 100 families that raise puppies for the Center, many of them university students. This has “changed the attitude of society toward blind people and allowed these university students to give back to society.”

Bracha and Suki
Bracha Ben-Avraham was born in the United States and grew up in Evanston Illinois to a very Zionist family. At 18 she went on a Habomin workshop to Israel.  Bracha loved Israel so much that she decided to come back a year later to a kibbutz on the Lebanese border after which she decided to make aliya and stay in Israel.

Vision impaired from birth and legally blind, Bracha had some remnants of vision in both eyes but spent most of her life “pretending she was like everyone else.” She realized that in order to do that, she was “compensating for her disability.” In 1987, Bracha’s vision worsened dramatically and she could no longer compensate and was slowly entering the world of the blind.  It was a very hard transition for her to make and she realized that her independence was being threatened and her life was getting out of control.

Three years ago, Bracha called up the Israel Guide Dog Center for the blind and as she states, “from that point onwards my life began to turn around again.” She registered for a guide dog, found one suitable for her named Suki and has been given a full life back.

Bracha says that life is much easier with Suki than trying to walk alone with nothing but a cane for assistance. “You realize that you have to put all your trust in the dog and that your dog is your eyes.” Bracha explains that she trusts Suki completely, in traffic at stop lights and even here in busy Manhattan, a first time trip for Suki.

Dror and Lyn
Dror Carmelli is a blind sportsman. Dror, who became legally blind as a teenager, maintains a small amount of peripheral vision.  He joined the IDF at the age of 18, went on to university and completed it.  As the years went by, Dror learned to enjoy sports and realized that he could do sports as a blind person with the help of others. Most of the time, he ran along with others who helped him by guiding him. As he got more involved in sports, his disability became more apparent. The little vision he had, which may have allowed him to tag along with others in a sport activity, was not enough for his daily life.  He than turned to the Israel Guide Dog center where he eventually received his guide dog, Lyn. Dror and Lyn have been a team for five years. Dror gives direction to Lyn and along with love and a little bit of nourishment; Lyn takes Dror wherever he needs to go.

Roni Dick
Roni Dick is an Israel Guide Center Volunteer. At 57 and still working, he and his wife have decided to devote all their free time to helping the blind of Israel.  He has taken trips with the blind all over the world, with the idea of showing them that they can lead full and productive lives. They have gone hiking in the mountains of Switzerland and, most recently, in April of this year participated in the March of the Living through Poland.  Twenty two people, they marched though Warsaw, Krakow and on to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Most important is that they marched for five days as a group of the blind with their dogs: The blind, who were targeted for death by the Nazis, alongside Jews and other “non-desirables” as useless people and the dogs, who during the Holocaust were used by the Nazis to maul and kill people, especially the weak and disabled.

As Roni says, we came back to show that we are strong and alive and that our dogs are giving us life rather than taking away life. Roni leads a group of bikers called Kain Ve Lo; Kain, meaning yes in Hebrew, are those who have sight and Lo, meaning no in Hebrew, are those who have lost their sight. [Incidentally, “velo” is the French word for “bicycle,” so the name could be rendered “Yes Bike” –ed.]. They peddle together, every weekend in Israel, all over the country to show that as partners, those who have and those who do not can forge a true sense of unity, achdut, that can never be broken.
Noach Braun and The Israel Guide Dog Center for the blind can be contacted by e-mail at:   noach@igdcb.org . Or check out their website at israelguidedog.org

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