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Pope`s Visit Spurs Demand for Travel Services [ 17/05/2009 ]

Physically Challenged Tourists turn to Yad Sarah for help


by B. Wiesner

Photo: Elaine Helping Gilad Solomon complete his school project to learn how Yad Sarah provides assistive devices and equipment to help improve the quality of life for people in Israel.

Elaine Pomerantz barely had time to speak with me. She was busy arranging adaptive equipment to be delivered to the Old City Holy Land Guest House where a physically challenged tourist would be staying for the duration of the Pope's visit to Israel. This week it's the Pope's visit, but "next week begins the rush of the simcha season," Elaine explained, "when weddings and graduations bring travelers to Israel from all corners of the world.


As manager of Yad Sarah's Travel Services Department, Elaine handles all requests for special equipment required by travelers with special needs.  "For example last year a bride who so wanted a physically challenged relative in Belgium to attend her wedding, called Yad Sarah to see if this was actually possible."  And it was.


With Elaine's congenial assistance nothing was too complicated. A hospital bed for the hotel room? A hoist? Bathroom  adaptations? Oxygen? A wheelchair? Transportation to the wedding? All of the celebrant's needs were in place when he arrived.


Other exceptionally busy times for Yad Sarah's special tourist service are the Passover and Sukkot holidays. Sometimes large group tours may include a number of people with travel challenges. In one recent case, a physically challenged couple wished to travel with their synagogue group from the U.S. and wanted their group to hire a tour bus in Israel with wheelchair accessibility. When they contacted Yad Sarah, Elaine made this possible for them. "Amazingly enough, there are only three such companies in the country," she pointed out. "The couple, both in wheelchairs, traveled with their hometown synagogue around Israel and had the trip of a life time," beamed Elaine.

Happy occasions and visits from foreign dignitaries, however, are not the only reasons for visits to Israel.  Many people, especially elderly, arrive for visits to the graves of loved ones or for memorial gatherings. Recently a 98-year-old arrived for such a reason. Elaine arranged everything – including transportation to the cemetery. (Cost of cemetery visits in Jerusalem is a nominal 40 shekels each way and enables not only travelers, but elderly and handicapped who live in Israel to visit the graves of loved ones.)


Elaine, a volunteer at Yad Sarah for 10 years, came to Israel with experience in rehabilitation counseling and disabilities services. 
To read about services for special needs tourists in Israel, click here.
To read about celebrities with special mobility needs who used Yad Sarah's services while visiting in Israel, click here.

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