Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dolls and Wheelchairs

There is a prevalent belief in Israel that everything that happens "abroad" (which usually means North America and Europe) gets here ten later. Witness the relatively recent sushi craze. Or, to cite another example, recycling has made its inroads but is still limited to plastic bottles and paper, at least in Haifa. Yet, environmental awareness is practically non-existent. So, too, is the concept of wheelchair accessibility.

For just over a week and ending tonight, Beit Hecht in Haifa hosted an exhibit, called "Magic of the Dolls." The building of Beit Hecht itself is quite unique. Most people who have been to Haifa know that there is a German Colony downtown, where German Templars used to live. Few people, however, know that there are still Templar buildings in other neighbourhoods of Haifa: Neve Sha'anan and the Carmel Center. Beit Hecht is one of such buildings.

The dolls exhibit hosted works by many different artists, each unique in its material, theme, size, and style. Unfortunately, for anyone who has limited mobility, which included someone in my party, almost half of the exhibit was off-limits as the only way to access the second floor was by a long and steep stairway. There was an elevator, but it didn't work, and I'm not sure when the last time it ever worked was. Though the staff did express sympathy, apparently it hadn't occured to anyone to try to make the entire exhibit accessible, or at least to warn us before we purchased our tickets.

The dolls which we did manage to see were captivating. They ranged from the realistic to the fantastical and cartoonish.

The doll below, however, puzzled me. It was labeled, "The Druze Woman Who Bakes Pita with Za'atar." "The Druze woman" baking pita is indeed a familiar sight in Haifa and the surrounding area. But I've never seen a Druze woman wearing this kind of costume, which looks closer to the clothes worn by some Bedouin women.

Maybe in ten years, this lovely exhibit, in its entirety, will be accessible to all.


AnKa said...

wow, it sounds like an amazing exhibit. What a shame that it wasn't accessible to all. Israel has a long way to go in terms of accessibility and it is very visible in Jerusalem: not only handicap accessibility, but also access for different types of people to different neighborhoods ... Arabs in Jewish areas, Jews in Arab areas, secular people in religious events, etc.

Anonymous said...

In this area the time lag is much more than 10 years. It is more than 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act required ramps and other accommodations.

Martin said...

It is somewhat surprising that accessibility is not more widely realized in IL given the efforts put into the rehabilitation particularly of wounded soldiers. (Nowadays victims of car accidents probably exceed the former group manyfold).
I do remember, from the time when I worked at Alyn in Kiryat-HeYovel in Jerusalem, that children and teenagers with wheelchair always needed somebody to help entering their school or workshop, just as an example.
These children certainly did not have a strong lobby then, but soldiers... they should have been in a position to demand changes. But perhaps they became too quickly demoralized and "disappeared" from the daily landscape. (And therefore did not stir a fuss in the interesting and creative doll museum).

Amos said...

One of the truly great things about Berkeley is the commitment of the city and the university to ensuring access for people with disabilities wherever possible. It makes a huge difference for students and community members in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. It takes a bit of money, but it is mainly about using one's imagination and making a big effort.