Just as a snippet: “Alia Abu al-Khof wants to be a teacher. But when she applied to study toward her undergraduate degree at Tel Hai College, she found out that it does not accept people like her, a person with a mobility challenge. The reason: The institution is built on a steep slope and is not wheelchair-accessible. Following a report in Haaretz yesterday, the college retracted its sweeping refusal to accept students with disabilities and announced it would try to help al-Khof study there.”
What is fascinating is that Tel Hai College is located on the site where one of the most famous people in the history of Zionism fell. Joseph Trumpeldor was one of the first powerful Zionist activists and was responsible for bringing many settlers to Palestine. After his death Trumpeldor became the symbol of Jewish self-defence, and his memorial day on the 11th day of Adar is officially noted in Israel every year. But what seems to have been forgotten is that Joseph Trumpeldor was a person with a disability. He had lost his left arm years before at the seige of Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war.
The Tel Hai College takes pride in being a bastion of tolerance and pluralism, until it was required to be accessible to people with disabilities.
“Tel Hai College, located on the site where the most famous disabled person in the history of Zionism fell, and which commemorates Joseph Trumpeldor’s legacy, is the last place that should enshrine discrimination against the disabled.”
Progress is slow. But what really catches my eye is the very fact how history seems to eliminate people’s disabilities. Those are wiped from their biographies. This is especially prevalent when their contribution to history had nothing to do with the field of disability. If it was someone who excelled then the disability seems to “mysteriously” vanish. Just as a few examples: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was disabled from polio, Harriet Tubman and Julius Caesar both had epilepsy; Stephen J. Cannell the screenwriter and director is dyslexic, as is Cher; Mozart had Tourette Syndrome; Steve Allen and Alice Cooper both have asthma, the famous Spanish painter Goya was deaf, and John Cougar Mellencamp and Hank Williams Sr. had forms of spina bifida; and just to mention a couple of notaries for any ACB readers, let me add the painters Degas and Monet who were both visually impaired.
But those are people who’s disabilities I had to hunt out. In the classroom, their contribution to society was never questioned, but their contribution as a member of a minorty class is never identified. Just as historically the societal contributions of African-Americans has never been attributed with an acknowledgement. What does this mean? It means that without a knowledge of history, without a knowledge of what people with disabilities have contributed, we are trapped in the sterotypical shells created by society and they, like Tel Hai College justify their discimination without ever realizing that we were the rock upon which they were built.