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> About Nitzan > "Turning Buds into Flowers"

"Turning Buds into Flowers"

An Interview with Ophra Elul, President of Nitzan Israel Taken from an article by Irit Matias, from the magazine "Women's World", September 2009.


How Long Have You Been a Part of Nitzan Israel?

I have been active in Nitzan Israel for already 15 years and have served as president for 12 years. Nitzan Israel was established in 1964 by parents and volunteers with the goal of providing an appropriate response to the various, unique needs of children and adults with learning disabilities and adaptive and functional difficulties. Nitzan has 35 branches throughout the country and through them we identify, evaluate, treat, and rehabilitate thousands of children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities and adaptive and functional difficulties. In addition, Nitzan also advances their rights, represents them in front of the national institutions, works to increase consciousness of their needs, trains professionals in the area of learning disabilities, and develops evaluation tools and educational treatment methods.

Why Did You Choose Specifically to Be a Part of Nitzan?

This is an association whose work is with children with learning disabilities. I was drawn to this topic when my husband, Rafi, was the president of the Mezkeret Batya municipality and I learned that approximately 10% of school-aged children have learning disabilities. Rafi decided that he wanted to evaluate all of the children of Mezkeret Batya for learning disabilities and I was simply drawn to this, and together with Nitzan Israel, who I hadn't been familiar with before, we performed the tests and treated children and since then I've been part of the organization.

What Does This Activity Do For You Personally?

I deal with many topics. We evaluate each year approximately 100,000 children from preschool until high school aged. We treat them for many years. The adults who were treated by us come back to us when they themselves are parents of babies, who for them Nitzan Baby was established with the sponsorship of Tova Segel. There, parents receive training with an emphasis on how to take care of children. For example, the mothers receive training how to concentrate and read an instruction sheet for medicine, how to measure the temperature of the bath water, how to check if the child has a fever, and of course training including psychological support.

What's Your Dream for Nitzan Israel?

That we reach every child that has learning disabilities in the country and that we can evaluate them and treat them and bring them to maximize their potential in a proper way. The more that we do this at an earlier age, the more we'll be able to improve the ability of each child. I want each of our children to reach higher education, academic studies, and to be independent adults contributing to the Israeli society.

What Kind of Help Does Nitzan Israel Need?

Money, because Nitzan has 35 branches throughout the country. In the periphery, lower socioeconomic areas, there are a lot of children from distressed families whose parents don't have time or money. And we are funded by donations.

Does Nitzan Have Activities Internationally?

It would be more appropriate to talk about our connections outside of Israel. We are very connected to research activities in the world, mainly in the United States. We have many connections with similar associations in the States that deal with the research aspect of the subject, where the emphasis is on studying the brain. In the last decade there has been a significant increase in research as far as discoveries are concerned. The existence of Nitzan for 46 years proves itself. The association was set-up by parents who understood that their children were sitting in classes of retarded children and by some sort of intuition understood that it didn't need to be that way. That's how Nitzan was started, being the outcome of a great struggle of parents to find appropriate solutions for their children.

Are You Active in Other Organizations?

I'm active in the Yedidim (Friends) group of Kaplan Hospital.

Is There Someone in Your Family Who is Active in Volunteer Organizations?

The whole topic of volunteering and giving I learned from my husband, Rafi, who was for many years the president of the municipality of Mezkeret Batya and a Knesset member from the Labor party. In his merit it could be said that his long period of political activity was a catalyst for my volunteer activities. 

What Excites You the Most in Your Activities with Nitzan?

Success stories of children who turn from a bud (nitzan in Hebrew) into a flower always excite me.


Photo: Yaki Halperin from the original article