Tour challenges perceptions


For many teenagers, an Israel tour is an eagerly awaited rite of passage. Things are less straightforward for those with physical or learning difficulties but a Maccabi GB project enables them to enjoy the same experience.

The graduates of Maccabi's latest Challenge Tour attended a reunion in Kenton on Sunday, three months after their 12-day itinerary in Israel. Accompanied by a team of eight Maccabi staff and carers, the 11-strong tour group visited the key historical, cultural and educational sites. And as the tour title implies, there were challenging pursuits such as sailing in Tel Aviv, camel riding and tenpin bowling with the Israeli Special Olympics team. The vast majority of the £50,000 cost was generated through fundraising.

A number of the group are involved with Langdon - helping those with mild-to-moderate learning difficulties - with which Maccabi has close ties. Many had never previously been on a plane, let alone to Israel.

Among those at the reunion was Robert, 17, from Golders Green. "I had a great time in Israel, having so many experiences I wouldn't have had on a usual holiday," he said.

North Londoner Jody Sacks paid tribute to the organisers for giving her 19-year-old daughter Gemma "the experience of a lifetime. She embraced every challenge and had the best time. She has returned in wonderful spirits, proud of her achievements, more confident, sensible and expressive. The trip surpassed any of our expectations and we are eternally grateful." Tour participants also came from Sheffield, Cambridge and Scotland.

Maccabi GB head of programmes Jessica Overlander-Kaye said the tour had been "an incredible success. It opened their eyes to the opportunities out there in the world for them.

"One of the main messages fed back to us by parents was that it was refreshing for the youngsters to take part in something without restrictions - without anyone constantly saying 'no' to them."

The application process for the next tour in 2016 will open shortly.

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