Although the young people who look out at us from these pictures may appear to be tall, thin or broad, they are actually toddlers. Their souls are still grounded in early childhood. Their bodies will continue to develop through the years, will grow up and grow old, but their minds will remain trapped in an eternal childhood. These are residents of ALEH Moriah, and what they have in common is their complex syndromes: intellectual and developmental disabilities along with various physical and medical conditions. Due to these syndromes, the majority of these young people are high-dependency residents, requiring round-the-clock supervision.
The basic assumption underlying the documentation of ALEH Moriah’s residents stems from the belief that one can change society’s attitude to those who are different by exposing, rather than hiding, them on a daily basis. The discourse is changing. Political correctness has erased the old terminology and created a new, accepting and respectful language. But talk is not enough. The daily public presence of these “special children” is important not only for their families, but is crucial for us, as a humane society.
The photographs were created through extended observation and patient waiting. Most of the children are busy with their private worlds. The camera’s presence didn’t bother them – most of them weren’t even aware of it. One girl blows soap bubbles continuously, while another obsessively collects pieces of paper. One adolescent swings his body like a pendulum and another runs around, mumbling in a language that he alone understands. A young girl quietly sorts dry leaves, with great concentration; the sound of children playing in ALEH Moriah’s yard is like that in any other neighborhood playground. Only a second look reveals the difference of those playing there.
The next time that you run into ALEH Moriah’s children on the street – when they go out as a group with their caregivers, to the beach, the supermarket, a café – look at them! Don’t turn away. Look at them with interest, not with shock. When you see them walking in front of you, don’t cross to the other side of the street – they don’t threaten anyone. They are an inseparable part of us.