This 'open letter' was composed in September 2001. The
activities of Keren Malki have come a long way since then, but the focus has
never shifted. Go here to see what we're doing
The life of our lovely daughter Malka Chana was
tragically ended on 9th August 2001 by an act of barbarism.
When thinking about the right way to remember and honor her
life, we - her family - felt that the most appropriate thing we could do was to
continue her acts of hesed (Hebrew for loving-kindness) through the establishment of a
Malki took an exceptionally strong interest in helping
children with disabilities. You can read more about this in her mother's letter. In her memory, Keren Malki
is dedicated to
providing specific services and equipment for families of severely disabled
children. It seeks to provide essential and practical assistance to severely
handicapped children in Israel; assistance of a kind that is almost completely
unavailable at present, although the need is great.
Enabling home care as an option
Broadly, the goal of the foundation is to fill the gap in the
care of these children and thereby improve the quality of life of both the
severely handicapped child and the family by:
Providing long-term loans of specialized therapy and access
equipment for home use to families with severely handicapped children. The
equipment we make available ranges from specialized
therapeutic devices for non-mobile and blind children through to
specialized wheelchairs, strollers, bath seats and lifting/lowering
Enabling quality physiotherapy and other similar services
beyond the levels which institutional budgets now permit and independent of
the institutions themselves. Dedicated and well-trained professionals are
available, but frustrated because of the scarcity of funding.
We plan to extend our services in the future in response to the
on-going needs of families caring for a child with severe disabilities.
Israeli law and practice discriminates against those families
who wish to care for their severely handicapped child at home, rather than
placing them in an institution. The law stipulates a minimum monthly number of
therapy hours to which every brain-damaged child is entitled. On average, this
comes to about 3.5 hours per week, which covers the full range of therapy
options: physiotherapy, speech, occupational, musical and so on. A drop in the bucket,
relative to the needs of the seriously handicapped. But in actual fact, even
this modest level is rarely achieved.
The problem is that the government and the health funds only
support these services if they are provided at an institution. But the Catch-22
is that therapists are often woefully underpaid and in short supply. So the
institutions frequently lack the budget and the resources to deliver those critically
Malki's involvement in the care of her youngest sister,
Haya-Elisheva, who suffers from severe health problems, sensitized her to the
needs of handicapped children from a very young age. Apart from the help she so
willingly gave at home, Malki volunteered to work with special-needs children
whenever her busy school life and youth movement obligations permitted. She
experienced directly the problems that exist for a family like ours which was
determined to take care of our handicapped child at home. There are a limited
number of options, none of them very satisfactory.
Our experience has been that the health and education systems,
the health funds and the institutions themselves, discourage families from
keeping their handicapped children at home. For those, like us, who firmly
believe there is no better place for a child with serious problems than home,
this has made an already heavy load even heavier.
In our case, we were pretty highly motivated, and ended up
fighting our health fund for the right to get certain services in the home, and
in the quantities and at the times that met the needs of our child and our
family. Frimet, Malki's and Haya's mother, wrote newspaper articles, and we went
to meetings with bureaucrats which eventually produced some results. This is an
ongoing battle for us. But not everyone has the background or the energy to do
this. And remember: We're speaking of families already coping with the
significant burden of caring for a child with special needs. Such people often
have very little left to fight the system.
Addressing an unmet need
Much of the Western world is moving towards a strong preference
for home-care (sometimes called family-based alternative care) over
institutional care. In the past, the conventional thinking was that the best
place for the handicapped child was an institution-a place that was designed to
provide food and shelter, therapy, and coordinated medical care. But, too often,
such places were unable to focus on quality of life for these children. Today,
there's a growing realization that even the best of institutional care is less
good than the loving environment of a child's own home. In most situations, the
longer a child can remain in the home environment, the better for the child.
To make the most effective use of Keren Malki's resources, we
are in negotiation with some very reputable Israeli organizations to provide us
with logistical and administrative support for Keren Malki's work. These
arrangements will enable us to outsource, at little or even no cost, the
warehousing of the specialized equipment, and make it available to families in
need on the most convenient possible basis. Rather than waste money on
duplicating what's already out there, we will be free to completely devote our
efforts to doing what is NOT available now, particularly in the Jerusalem area.
To ensure that overhead expenses are as small as possible for as long as
possible, all the work of Keren Malki is currently being done by family, friends
We are also in the process of putting together an advisory board
of experts in the field. Their experience, together with ours as parents, will
help us to stay focused on the real needs of families of developmentally and
physically challenged children.
Please help us to get the work of Keren Malki off to a strong
start. Frimet and I believe that with your help, we can make a difference.
There is no reason for me to gloss over what we have gone
through since the awful afternoon, evening and night of August 9th, 2001. This has
been a heartbreaking time for our family. Our prayer is that the work we're
starting in Malki's name will help to ensure her tragic and senseless death does
not become simply another statistic.
May HaShem grant us the merit of seeing much better
times - quickly - for our sakes, and for our children.
(at left) devoted herself to helping children
with special needs. This snapshot was taken ten days before she was
murdered; she was serving as a volunteer leader at the Etgarim summer camp for
teenagers with disabilities.
2003 Update: The Keren Malki Unit at Jerusalem's Yad Sarah
Organization was officially inaugurated on 7th January.
Click here to read