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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Israeli Winery Employs Mentally Disabled 'Friends'

Tulip winery owner Roy Yitzhaki, second from left, with 'chaverim' Dedi Ashkenazi, left, and Inbal Monar, center, and vintner Tamir Arzy and marketing director Neta Mainz. (Image Credit: Brett Kline / JTA)

This is a very heartfelt story that stirred up the emotional strings of this blogger (who isn't all that emotional).

Basically a wine factory has been employing mentally disabled 'friends' in order to help run their business. Although other companies would rather employ "fit folk," these guys are reaching out to what some may regard as the least of all in society, and making them feel apart of the overall community.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Friends, or "chaverim," in this case, is the term used for the residents of Kfar Tikva, Hope Village, home to some 200 mentally disabled Israelis in Kiryat Tivon in the North.

Tulip has been renting space in Kfar Tikva since beginning its operation in 2003, and its small staff is comprised almost entirely of village residents.

"We employ the chaverim for the soul," Yitzhaki explains. "Our primary purpose here is to make great wine, but I feel good knowing I am offering gainful employment to the disabled. The chaverim are a real part of our operation."

They say a society is often judged by how well they treat the weakest members of their rank. If that is true, then Tulip's factory is a shining example how great the Israeli community is as a whole.

Although their factory is unable to globally compete as much as they would like to, they are making a strong foothold into Canada. Hopefully some more exposure will convince other internationals to consider what these people have to offer, as this operation reminds us all what it truly means to be human.

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