Lead role in Israel for latest olim pups


When four new arrivals from the UK arrive in Israel later this month, they will do so without the celebrations that greet many olim.

But their contribution to their adopted home is set to help dozens of blind and partially sighted Israelis gain the chance of independence through the gift of a guide dog from the Israel Guide Dog Centre at Beit Oved near Rishon LeZion.

The four labrador puppies Rocket, Rolo, Peanut and Sox, are following in the paw-steps of Maisy, Milo, Valerie and Vivi, who made the same trip in the summer, and all eight were supplied to the centre by the charity UK Guide Dogs. Once in Israel, they will join the breeding programme at the centre, helping to ensure a diverse gene pool and future generations of healthy guide dogs.

Unlike in the UK, where the idea of guide dogs is long established, the concept is still gaining a foothold in Israel, even as the centre prepares to mark its 25th anniversary in 2016.

Jon Benjamin, chairman of the IGDC in the UK, said: "The irony is that the widespread use of guide dogs began in response to the casualties suffered in the First World War, but it hadn't caught on in Israel until much more recently."

The Israel centre has increased its operations, now supplying 35 to 40 dogs a year to those in need.

Martin Segal, the IGDC UK's director, said the eight puppies "will be incredibly important in Israel. It's vital for the health of the breeding programme that it includes dogs from outside Israel. In the past they have come from the US, Canada as well as the UK, but we are fortunate to have close relations with UK Guide Dogs and are very grateful for their help in finding so many dogs for us."

The centre in Israel welcomed Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis over the summer, and bade farewell at a special reception for outgoing British Ambassador Matthew Gould, who had looked after two dogs previously at his residence in Tel Aviv.

Work is proposed to begin on a major expansion and refurbishment programme later this year, which will include new breeding and training facilities.

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