The "Beit Uri" (=House Uri) was originally just a small home, founded in 1969 by Devorah Schick, a Prague-born Jew and survivor of the Shoa, in memory of her son Uri, who was born with disabilities and did not have the support and care available during his lifetime with which the Beit Uri welcomes and cares for its members.
Since then, the Beit Uri on Givat HaMore (=Hill of the Teacher) has grown into an oasis and a center of life for over 100 young and old members, who go to school here, make handmade products in practical workshops according to their abilities, and live and learn together in small residential communities.
I am a volunteer in the "Beit Dolev", a residential house where ten members live together: six men and four women between the ages of 40 and 60. Together with Hannah, a fellow volunteer, I am part of the seven-member team that accompanies the residents throughout the day, supports them in the workshops, cares for and provides them with everything they need. My working day usually starts at 6 a.m. with a cup of tea, during which I find out from the night shift what still needs to be done before breakfast and whether there were any problems during the night. After that, the members who could not be showered by the night shift are showered, the men are shaved and everyone gets ready for breakfast. When the table is set and the food is ready, a joint prayer is said before the meal is started. For those members who have difficulty eating on their own, food is passed and care is taken to eat at a moderate pace to avoid digestive problems. When everyone has finished eating breakfast, two of our members clear away the table and wash dishes. Afterwards all members have their teeth brushed, after which there is often some time to sit in the living room or walk around the house before going to the workshops.
Half of our residents work in the candle workshop, where they fill molds with colored and scented wax pieces, which are then poured with hot wax to make different shaped candles. In addition, candles are pulled in the workshop for Shabbat, which are sold along with the poured candles in the Beit Uri Shop to visitors or family members. The other half takes care of the removal and emptying of the garbage cans of all houses in the Beit Uri or distribute fruit and other food to school classes, which are eaten as a small snack during the break at 10 o'clock.
I am always where I am needed most. Sometimes in the candle workshop to draw candles, to color them or to get them ready for packaging. But most of the time I stay in the house with residents who don't go to the candle workshop or take them for a little walk through the Beit Uri, picking up the boxes with the morning snacks in the kitchen and taking them to the school classes.
At half past twelve, all members gather again in the house for lunch, which is cooked for us in the large kitchen of the Beit Uri and is picked up from there in food carts. After lunch all members go to brush their teeth again and then go to their rooms to get some sleep or rest during the nap. Once all the members are cleaned up and in bed, and the dining area is tidied up and cleaned, my workday ends and I say goodbye to everyone.
At home despite Corona
As is currently the case everywhere, the work with people with special needs at Beit Uri is also influenced by Corona. Thus, all homes are considered closed groups and meetings of members from different homes are kept to a minimum in order to keep infection chains small. Therefore, the different workshops have been divided among the houses, which currently makes it impossible to distribute members among the workshops according to individual preferences. The pandemic also eliminates the big gatherings at the holidays or at the beginning of the month in the Jewish calendar, which were highlights for members as well as for workers and volunteers and strengthened the feeling of being part of a big community. Unfortunately, I did not get to experience the Beit Uri before Corona. Nevertheless, during the year I wish to get to know all people who live here, help to create and are a part of this home, and to be a part of this great community myself.
For more information: https://www.bet-uri.org.il/copy-of-home
Stefan Blankenheim, 21, comes from Dormagen in North Rhine-Westphalia and plans to study Special Education. This is another reason why his work at Beit Uri, in Givat HaMoren in northern Israel, is just right for him. Stefan is active in the Socialist Youth of Germany " Die Falken". This enabled him to participate in a youth exchange with Israel last year, which excited him so much that he now wants to live and work here for an entire year with ASF.