Frontline Initiative International

Kishor Village Integration Kibbutz Style


Chaya Schwartz is a senior lecturer at the School of Social Work, Bar-Ilan University

Stefan Rothschild is deputy director of AKIM in Jerusalem

Israel is a country of immigration with a very diverse population. It faces enormous problems in reaching and providing community supports to people with disabilities. Demand for services in the community has increased at a time of strained public budgets, and despite the relatively rapid increase over the last two decades in the number of people with mental retardation placed in community living arrangements (CLAs) nationwide, those who receive these services constitute only 38 percent of all persons with developmental disabilities who do not live with their family.

CLAs in Israel currently include a wide range of services, representing a continuum from the most restrictive to the least. The “hostel,” or big group home (16-36 people), is the most restrictive type of CLA, where Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide 24-hour supervision and intensive services. About 66 percent of the people with mental retardation who live in the community live in a hostel. On the other end of the spectrum is the Independent Apartment, where two to six people live, and DSPs provide services as needed and do not live with them 

One of the most recent community support efforts to meet these demands in Israel is an integrated rural village established and situated next to a kibbutz, a settlement whose members cooperatively generate and dispense revenues based upon communal expenses and individual salaries. In 1994, a group of parents and professionals established an integrated community for adults with mental, emotional and learning disabilities at the Kishor kibbutz. DSPs at Kishor work alongside people with disabilities in an integrated setting that provides opportunities for them to earn a profit that supplements the Kishor community and personal wages. DSPs make decisions about the village’s operation and, at weekly staff meetings, each consumer is encouraged to make decisions about his or her private and social life. The village provides four kinds of services: residential, occupational, health, and leisure time services. Each DSP has an identified vocational skill in which he or she is an expert, and all DSPs are knowledgeable about social service skills. The role of the DSP within the kibbutz is to support those with disabilities in exploring and realizing their potential by providing teaching, encouragement, friendship, counseling and needed supports.

The uniqueness of the Kishor Village lies in its combined emphasis on the integration of those living alongside the kibbutz members while making common use of, and contributing equally to, communal life. As part of the village’s industry and effort to promote the economic independence of the village, the residents there operate an olive tree plantation, a goat farm, a dairy facility, an electronics plant, and a Mini-Schnauzer kennel, among other industries. At the orchard, DSPs teach the community members the process of planting a tree, harvesting the olives, extracting the oil, and selling the produce. Sales from this production will fund the village’s operation and will decrease financial dependence of those with disabilities on their families and on government assistance.

 When applying to be a DSP at Kishor, one must already possess a skill related to the village’s vocations and then take courses offered at or near Kishor for training in interacting with individuals with disabilities and integration training. DSPs at Kishor say they are very satisfied with the education, training, and supervision they receive for their work. DSPs are also encouraged to obtain outside training relevant to their jobs. Currently, six DSPs and 27 individuals with disabilities work at Kishor. Of the six DSPs, three are counselors, who make a minimum salary with extra compensation for work on weekends, holidays and nights, and the other three are heads of teams, who earn a little more, about an equivalent of $1,400 in U.S. currency per month.

The guiding principle of the Kishor village is to support persons with disabilities so that they can become better established within society. Support staff encourage the individuals living at Kishor to pursue other employment options that suit their interests and needs in the surrounding community. This practice is in contrast to Israeli society in general, which discourages efforts to engage those with disabilities due to social stigma. Outside of efforts at Kishor, supports delivery for people with disabilities has mostly amounted to providing food, clothing and a clean place to live, but no further training. At the Kishor community, the DSP provides training for individuals to participate in every part of Israeli society, and in doing this, the DSP promotes a better image of persons with disabilities in the eyes of all.