The College Project “Achla”
Yohanan Flusser (son of the late Professor David Flusser), is principal of a unique school in Jerusalem for children with special needs. Called abnormal by us who consider ourselves “normal” elicits the question from Yohanan, “Who IS normal?”
Yohanan is an unusual man in the special education system in Jerusalem. He majored in animal science for his undergraduate degree, did a master’s degree in philosophy of science and then worked in the computer field. About seven years ago, he decided to go into education and was accepted by the prestigious School of Educational Leadership in Jerusalem.
He bid for and won the position of principal of Beit Rachel Strauss, which he developed into a school for children who did not integrate into other frameworks. If Yohanan had not taken them out of those institutions, they would have remained physically and emotionally locked up in another world. He puts them in contact with the outside world, primarily by activities that break some of the conventions of special education, but gets the maximum out of these children. His success is expressed by Meir Krauss, the head of the education authority, who said of Yohanan Flusser, “There is exceptional educational work being done there. Flusser is a real educator.”
It is important to him that his students develop a sense of self-confidence and ability to give. “I love them,” Yohanan says. “We develop masks at an early age, but they don’t have any masks. They’re full of warmth, innocence and love. For me, being with them is an escape from the evil that exists outside. These are children who had nowhere to turn. Here, they have a place that tells them: ‘You are complete and desirable people’.”
In a recent phone conversation with Yohanan, I learned of a “spin off” project that will greatly improve the quality of life for the mentally handicapped. With this curriculum, Yohanan’s school is now involved in a greater project for these special students.
Called “Achla” the aim is to establish a college for special education students defined as mentally retarded in response to the real need of this population. The project is rooted in an attitude of mutual respect and genuine equality toward the one who is different but is a complete entity with needs and desires as well as social, communal and academic aspirations. Currently, all special education school graduates, particularly those defined as mentally retarded, go to sheltered and routine employment in sheltered environments and are denied the option of pursuing academia. The first college in Israel for this population will be established near and in conjunction with a university or college, simultaneously maintaining respect for the other and in cooperation with those institutions.
The significant gap and lack of equality is due in part to a lack of knowledge of the mentally retarded population. The college will effect a significant revolution in the general population’s perception of this unique community and advance the entrenchment of equality and mutual respect in Israeli society. The universities and colleges that participate in this project will achieve a particular involvement in solving problems pertaining to this special population and its interests.
Therefore, the organization’s mission and goal is the establishment of educational, employment and communal frameworks for the different person. It will make provision for equal opportunity for people with special needs in every realm of life. It will facilitate development of new employment, culture and leisure solutions for the special population.
Already, Achla has established a digital photography laboratory in a special education school. The organization, which was only approved by the registrar of non-profit organizations in July 2000, is becoming an active body operating a unique project in special education and purveying a central idea to the public: the establishment of a college.
Our friend of many years, Yohanan Flusser, is a vital part of the staff of Achla which is comprised of professionals with decades of experience in working with this unique population. The methods they use include community work from an egalitarian and cooperative perspective, based on mutual respect, with various public and communal bodies.
Bible Light highly recommends you have part in this unusual and needful project in Jerusalem and in so doing fulfill the admonition of the Redeemer when He said, ‘INASMUCH as you do it unto one of the least of these MY BRETHREN, you do it unto Me.’ And in so doing, you will learn they really are NOT “least” but very important in His Kingdom.
Contact Yohanan at PO Box 10459, Jerusalem 91104, Israel, or Fax 011-972-2-6482980, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact me, Chris Josephson, at PO Box 370, Ottawa, KS 66067 or via e-mail: email@example.com. Contributions for this project made out to Bible Light will be sent 100% to Achla.
Please do it NOW while your heart is warm toward this project – which indicates the Lord is speaking to you to have a part. -