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Visit to the Israel Guide Dog Centre

Report on the visit to Rehovot by Michael Adler, a member of the visiting group:

Our first stop was the Israel Guide Dog Centre for the Blind (IGDA) which is based at Beit Oved. A guide dog can completely transform the life of a blind person by giving them safe and independent mobility and complete freedom to go out into any street and even travel on trains and aircraft. The Israel Guide Dog Association was established in the early 90s by Noach Braun who during his army service trained dogs for military purposes. The IGDA serves to link a blind person to a suitable dog.  In their brand new campus at Beit Oved west of Rehovot, Bracha ben Avraham met us with her dog Dinka for a short talk and explained how this was achieved. The dogs are mostly but not exclusively Labradors and Golden Retrievers and are specially bred, the gestation time being about 57 days. Not every dog has the temperament for guiding and those who are not selected are placed with special needs families.  Each dog is trained to respond to a series of about 50 commands given in Hebrew. The trainer works closely with a dog and clicks a small device when the required task is carried out and gives the dog a reward at the same time. 

The decision to use a guide dog by a blind person is very personal and the centre offers counseling for this. If the person accepts the concept, they are given training for dog handling, and then come to the centre where they live for 2 ½ weeks with the dog as they get to know each other.

The centre creates between 30 and 50 partnerships each year and since its inception has linked over 600 couples. It is a member of the International Federation of Guide Dogs and is the only centre of its kind in the Middle East.

Our large group was split into three for the visit to the centre. The new multi-million dollar facilities are complete with residential flatlets, immaculate dog kennels, outside roads and an obstacle course for training purposes.  

We were all inspired by this visit. The centre is largely funded by donations and staffed by volunteers.  There can be a no more rewarding initiative.

Our next stop was the Weizmann Institute of Science which was established in 1934. The Weizmann Institute of Science is well known the world over for its excellence in scientific research and teaching in the basic and exact sciences.   We arrived at the state of the art Visitors Centre, the gateway to the institute, where visitors can learn about the Weizmann Institute’s central role in Israeli science and technology development.   An interactive video display explores the work of the institute and this was followed by a specially designed multimedia theatre presentation, with an emphasis on cross-disciplinary investigation.   It has faculties of Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Computer Science. Physics, Science Teaching and Scientific Archeology. It was in the latter department that we heard a fascinating lecture on Micro-Archeology by the genial and modest Professor Steve Weiner, originally from Pretoria, which turns out to be studies reaching back hundreds of thousands of years using carbon dating and accelerator mass spectrometry and infrared spectrometry to elucidate the identification of materials, their characteristics and age.

Lunch in the cafeteria was followed by a drive through the beautifully landscaped grounds for a visit to the quiet and tranquil Memorial Plaza where we saw a Memorial to the Holocaust designed by Dani Karavani and completed in 1972.   The centre-piece is a bronze and stone sculpture representing a Torah Scroll that has been split in half and is inscribed with the ID numbers of concentration camp prisoners. Railway tracks let into the concrete symbolize the millions who perished. 

Our grateful thanks to the organizers and the bus driver for a really wonderful day.

Article written by Michael Adler


Tiyulim with Telfed

Wherever possible, the tiyulim arranged by the Telfed Tiyul (Travelling) Committee are directed at places with a Southern African connection, and so it was with the visit to Rehovot on 31 January 2018, taking in The Israel Guide Dog Centre and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

During the 70 years of its existence, Telfed has been involved in many projects and endeavors directed at strengthening Israeli society. Telfed assisted with funding for the training of a guide dog to assist a visually impaired person, as Sid Shapiro, former Director recalls: “When the organization first started, Telfed's Endowments & Scholarship Committee allocated them funds”. Telfed is proud that its connection with the Israel Guide Dog Centre goes back to their very beginning.

Telfed has also had a long-standing association with The Weizmann Institute of Science, awarding scholarships to students over the years from funds such as the Louis Chor Memorial Fund. Under Telfed's administration, this fund was especially established to assist with cancer research at the Weizmann Institute.

Telfed was instrumental in introducing South African philanthropist David Lopatie to the Weizmann Institute, an introduction that resulted in his funding the establishment of the David Lopatie Conference Centre, which was completed in 2011. This building stands as testimony to a South African presence in the Weizmann Institute. Many South African born scientists have studied and conducted research at the Institute, including Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Michael Levitt.

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