Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Kibbutz with a Cause

Binyamin Rose

Special-needs adults have found a haven on Kibbutz Kishor, a Western Galilee community built especially for their needs — and redefining “special needs” along the way

Thursday, October 13, 2016

 Mishpacha image

NEW DIRECTIONS Whether it’s working in the winery, tending to the goats and horses, or pitching hay, members credit the kibbutz with giving them skills and purpose (Photos: Lior Mizrachi, Kishorit Archives)

Roni Isakov, mashgiach at the Kishor winery, siphons wine from oak barrels into a pair of waiting glasses, drawing the season’s first samples. A warm, dry winter produced an early harvest, and Isakov is eager to taste the product of months of work.

You’ve got to be nimble to keep up with the wiry Isakov, whose hands are tinted from the rich purple color of fine red wine. As he hurries from the vat room to the barrel room, the heels of his knee-high white boots squeak with every step on the slick black slate floor.

Isakov stops to convey guidance to a valued assistant — one of the 171 adult employees with special needs who are members of the Kishor community — and who require extra supervision and forbearance. Some of the members live and/or work in the nearby city of Karmiel, while others choose to live in the kibbutz and work in the kibbutz’s own revenue-generating businesses.

“It’s not easy. Some of the work is very intensive, and I’ve had to train myself what I can say to them and what not to say,” says Isakov, adding that he first learned essential lessons in restraint on his previous job in a yeshivah kitchen. “I’ve learned to listen and communicate with sensitivity. I’ve learned to keep myself balanced. When I’m balanced, my workers stay in balance too.”

In the next room, Yair Una, director of the winery’s visitor center, lines up bottles on the wood countertop, in preparation for the imminent arrival of a group for a wine tasting. His right-hand man is another adult with special needs, Yaron, who watches over the small dishes of green olives that will serve as a garnish to the wines. “I’m here to help the visitors,” Yaron says. “To get them seated, to explain about the vineyard and just to be a good host.”

“He is the best,” Yair says in tribute to Yaron, who has learned every facet of the winery’s operations over the past six years. “He doesn’t have fine motor skills, but you ought to see him in the fields with a scythe in his hands. He doesn’t miss a stroke. And sometimes, after a tasting, we will leave late and the place is a mess. He’s here at six o’clock the next morning cleaning up. It would be hard to imagine the vineyard or winery without Yaron.”

The same could be said about all of the special-needs adults who staff the diversified enterprises at Kibbutz Kishor, nestled 500 meters (1,650 feet) above sea level in the upper Western Galilee. From Kishor’s highest geographic point, Acco and the Mediterranean coast are visible at a distance of 12 miles. The Lebanese border is just six miles away, as the crow flies. But Kishor’s highest spot of human compassion is how it has quietly yet diligently provided a home, meaningful employment, and 24/7 tender loving care to men and women with a range of emotional and cognitive impairments, such as Down syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia.

Some are orphans or were abandoned. Others come from foster homes or other residential care facilities. In many cases, their parents cared for them until early adulthood, and then decided they needed a long-term solution that could offer their sons and daughters employment, friendships, and lasting security.


By providing these adults a community built exclusively for their needs, Kishor has given them a dignity and confidence they’ve found nowhere else. The community is based on the fundamental principle that people with special needs are entitled to the human right of autonomy and self-determination. With support, the members make decisions for themselves regarding their medical care, living situations, and employment settings. For many members, it is the first time they have ever been given full control over their lives and the experience has profound positive impact on the therapeutic and rehabilitative process.

Related Stories

Clouds of Faith

Aryeh Erlich

Rav Mordechai Hager, the spiritual leader of Vizhnitz-Monsey, survived the war with his family, and ...

Return to Sender

Eliyahu Ackerman

After fleeing Brisk, an influx of letters from home became Rav Moshe Soloveitchik’s lifeline and sub...

Eyes Wide Open

Yisroel Besser

Reb Mota Frank greets every Jew as a brother, looking past the challenges and failures to the nesham...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"