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Out of Sight

Miri Heller

Chanukah: dancing flames, a sea of powdered white on steaming doughnuts, the crisp, brown edges of freshly fried latkes. It’s a festival when we revel in the sights, the visual smorgasbord. What is it like for those who are visually impaired? Meet three individuals who see through their sense of touch and their minds’ eye.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ariella Savir is a sought-after Israeli songwriter and singer, with a staggering 80 albums to her name. She is also blind. “What do your eyes see?” she sings, a poignant question from someone who lost her sight when she was eight years old.

Ariella’s many videos graphically depict the challenges and joys of everyday life without vision. She wipes down a table and inadvertently sweeps a granddaughter’s clay creation to the floor. It smashes. She makes two mugs of tea and brings them over to her husband. Her obvious sense of accomplishment is sweeter than the hot drink. Ariella lives each day with this dichotomy: sorrow at her world of darkness and joy at the gifts she enjoys.

Born with normal eyesight, Ariella had no hint of the turn her life would take. When she was eight years old, a school nurse detected some vision impairment. Ariella’s eyesight deteriorated until she was plunged into darkness. “As a child, I wasn’t aware of what was happening. The adults around me thought they were doing me a favor by hiding the situation, so no one said a word.” She had never been prepared for facing a world shrouded in darkness.

Shuli, who works in an assisted-living home, was also born with full vision. When she was three years old, doctors found a growth on her optic nerve. Although the tumor was benign, it retained the properties of a malignant growth. Surgery and treatments reduced the growth, but it quickly returned. Shuli underwent a second surgery, and the surgeon removed not just the growth, but also the optic nerve. “I became blind in one eye. I was miraculously left with 25 percent vision in my second eye and am able to function normally.”

Both women have spent decades grappling with the light and dark of their disability. In contrast, Esti Peleg’s daughter Shira is a delightful, intelligent five-year-old, who was born completely blind. The three share a world that may be dark, but is determinedly colorful.

 

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