Traveling abroad presents many challenges for people with special needs. A new service in Israel, Yad Sarah for Tourists, provides personalized assistance to those who want to visit Israel.

Without charge, Yad Sarah for Tourists arranges loan and delivery of medical and rehabilitative equipment to the tourist’s hotel or host’s residence, such as an electric hospital bed, hoist, shower chair, wheelchair, crutches, oxygen concentrator and so on. It recommends tour guides specializing in clients with limited mobility and special needs, as well as advice about tourist sites with easy access.

“I don’t know of any other place in the world that does this for free. You can come and visit Israel even with physical disabilities because of the service we give,” says Nadia Allalo, head of Yad Sarah for Tourists.

For a fee, disabled tourists also can hire a specially equipped vehicle from Yad Sarah for transfers to and from the airport and for sightseeing. The vehicle can accommodate two wheelchairs and four ambulatory companions.

Yad Sarah, the largest voluntary organization in Israel, provides a spectrum of free or nominal cost services to make life easier for sick, disabled and elderly people and their families, and also lends baby gear to families with newborns. Now 40 years old, Yad Sarah has more than 100 branches throughout Israel run by close to 7,000 volunteers.

Allalo tells ISRAEL21c the tourist service was offered informally for many years and was organized formally for the past two and a half years.

“In that time we’ve worked with about 1,000 people from 35 countries. Everybody can use our services – Jewish, Arab, Christian, anyone. We take only a deposit, and that is refunded 100 percent [after the return of the equipment]. They pay a reasonable fee only for the van transportation.”

The length of the stay does not matter.

“Recently a couple from Australia came for an experimental medical treatment in Tel Aviv and ended up staying for two months, and we were available to them the whole time,” says Allalo, who has a map in her office at Yad Sarah’s Jerusalem headquarters showing the countries from which tourists have approached Yad Sarah for assistance visiting Israel.

About 1,000 people from 35 countries have used Yad Sarah for Tourist services over the past 2.5 years. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Over the recent Passover holiday, some 40 tourists used the service.

All arrangements through Yad Sarah’s Tourist Desk must be made in advance. The direct line is +972-2-644-4618.

For more information, click here.