Hear their plea; See their plight: A unique initiative in Tel Aviv
Have we created enough public awareness among our society to accept
deaf and blind people as equal citizens and promote universal values of
solidarity, mutual respect, tolerance and coexistence?
When this has turned into an important dialogue in many societies,
Israel has set up a perfect example to the entire world on how to
advance the needs and aspirations of this neglected social group by
creating an attitudinal change among the Israeli society at large on the
deaf and blind people.
The "Nalaga'at" Center, located at the Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv strives
to provide the deaf-blind population of Israel a unique opportunity to
achieve artistic expression by providing them the due recognition in the
society. The "Nalaga'at" Center which functions as a non-profit
organization in Israel has opened its gates to the public in December
2007. The centre has turned into a unique and daring initiative as it is
the only deaf-blind theatre company in the world. Since its opening to
the public, the center has become a place where the people who can hear
and see and the people with hearing and/or vision impairments can meet
As a distinguished feature, the centre comprises three key features:
the "Nalaga' at" Theater, home to the Deaf-blind Acting Ensemble; Cafe
Kapish, with its deaf waiters and BlackOut, the pitch restaurant with
its staff of blind waiters. The "Nalaga' at" Center has employed nearly
70 people, most of whom are deaf, blind or deaf-blind. "Nalaga'at"
Center through these three novel concepts has provided a unique
experience to the people on the true lifestyle of the deaf and blind
people by completely changing their attitude on how they think of these
special social group who deserves much public attention.
Thousands of Israeli people and foreigners visit the center and enjoy
an exceptional artistic experience. As a journalist who came to Israel
to attend the International Workshop on Media Strategies for Social
Change organized by the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training
Centre, I also had the rare opportunity to view the drama performed by
these deaf-blind artistes and gained the experience of their BalckOut
restaurant. The "Nalaga' at" Center has been established based on the
concept that every human being has the right to contribute to the
society he lives in. A visit made by us to the center completely changes
the way we think and feel about the af-blind.
"Nalaga' at" which has been founded by Art Director Adina Tal and
Eran Gur in December 2002 has raised the curtain with its maiden
production "Light is Heard in Zig Zag" - a play written and directed by
Adina Tal for twelve deaf-blind individuals who up till then had lived
in total darkness and silence. Adina has been engaged in the field of
theater both as a director and as an actress for many years. Following
the success of her initial play, Adina has engaged with the actors in
the production of the second show "Not by Bread Alone". This journey
denotes her constant search for creating new ways of communication
within the group and between actors and audiences. The "Nalaga' at"
Center had received full recognition when its founder and General
Manager Adina Tal was awarded the Chesed Award (Honour of Grace) at a
moving ceremony at the Knesset.
The "Nalaga' at" Theater provides its audience an artistic and human
experience and seeks to change people's perceptions and views. The
theatre has provided a unique opportunity to the public to meet a quite
unusual group of deaf and blind people, who are very creative to present
their audience with a wonderful gift-the gift of art.
Eleven actors stage their play under the theme of "Not by bread
alone". Under this theme, they have engaged in rehearsals for the last
two years. During many months they have familiarized themselves with the
various stages of baking bread. Until the breads are baked, the actors
stage their drama to entertain the audience.
According to Adina Tal it took a long and complex process until the
actors reached the point of sensing the vibrations created by the drum,
even from the distance. In this way a new form of communication was
created, combining the unique human drama of this group with the
theatrical stage. The "Nalaga'at" theater actors are deaf and blind.
Some have traces of sight, some have traces of hearing, some are totally
blind and some are totally deaf. According to Adina Tal, most of deaf
and blind people have the ability to communicate only with those who are
familiar with sign language through touch. With "Nalaga'at", in addition
to the accepted sign language, the actors communicate with one another
in many different ways. Each and every member has his or her specific
communicative needs and abilities and during their years together the
members of the group have learned how to communicate with each other.
As another significant part of the "Nalaga'at" Center, Cafe Kapish
restaurant is conducted by the deaf and hearing-impaired waiters and
they engage in a dialogue with us in a language yet unfamiliar-sign
language. You shall be amazed to find out how pleasant and easy
communicating without words can be and how an ordinary night-out can
soon turn to an 'out of this world' experience. Hundreds of Israeli
people come to this restaurant daily to eat the delicious food served by
these deaf and hearing-impaired youth. Each one who come to this
restaurant is warmly welcome by these youth and lot of Israeli people
come to the restaurant by paying their lot of love and affection to
these youth. Though these youth can't talk or hear, they through their
sign language provide a more friendly and efficient service to the
customers. While offering their services, they also engaged in a
demonstration and display various words written in placards by asking
the customers whether they are satisfied with the service rendered by
them. All the customers in the restaurant are seen to respond them in
the same sign language by highly appreciating their service.
Meanwhile the BlackOut restaurant has become the main culinary
attraction at the center. It invites the people to an exceptional
culinary experience that will trigger their senses. This has provided a
unique opportunity to the people to gain the similar experience of a
Before we entered the BlackOut restaurant, a staff member explained
the procedures and we were asked to place our bags and cellphones in
nearby lockers with keys. Those who enter into this BlackOut restaurant
should stay nearly 20 minutes inside it in complete darkness.
Later a very friendly waitress escorted us to our table leading us
single file, with hands on shoulders. Several tables had been arranged
for us and other visitors and we were served bread and wine, escorted by
blind waiters in the total darkness.
A large number of Israeli people and foreigners come to the BlackOut
restaurant to gain its unique dining experience. After coming out of
this BlackOut restaurant, it provides a perfect learning experience to
get a better understanding of life for the blind and to learn something
about ourselves as well. Through these three novel concepts of "Nalaga'
at" Theater, Cafe Kapish and BlackOut Restaurant, Israel has been able
to create an effective awareness campaign among the Israeli society and
focus much public attention to look after the deaf and blind people.
Therefore this would be a perfect example to countries worldwide
which are looking for various new initiatives to look after their deaf
and blind people.