President Reuven Rivlin went to celebrate the first day of school for the ultra-Orthodox along with Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman. But this time, he went to visit boys from various grades who, due to illness, have been unable to attend school in recent months.
That doesn’t mean that they’re not learning. Special classes have been arranged in the children’s ward of the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak, staffed by teachers to ensure that when the children are discharged, they won’t be behind in their studies.
During his visit, the president met with children who have been hospitalized for long periods of time. While the hospitalized children are not forced to study during their stints in Mayanei Hayeshua, many of them choose to study because they want to feel included, as well as keep up in school.
“Whoever wants to learn, comes,” said Prof. Mordechai Ravid, who heads the hospital. Even children who are admitted to hospital for very short periods, come to the classroom, he said. Separate classes are arranged for female patients at the hospital.
Rivlin, a doting grandfather himself, found instant rapport with the youngsters. The children were eager to share their experiences learning in the hospital and to tell him about their illnesses. They told the president they preferred studying in the hospital to doing so in a proper classroom.
One child who particularly took to Rivlin, three-year-old Avraham, told the president that while he did not know how to read yet, he could recite the Alef-Bet for him.
Litzman asked the other students if they had heard the shofar that morning, and when all of them answered with a resounding “yes,” Rivlin told them the shofar had been blown that morning in the synagogue of the President’s Residence.
After taking his leave from the children, Rivlin visited Mayanei Hayeshusa’s mental health unit, a psychiatric hospital specifically built for the benefit of the ultra-Orthodox community.
The unit has separate inpatient divisions for men and women, and a daycare department.
There, Rivlin met with Dr. Moshe Rothschild, who founded the psychiatric hospital 28 years ago, along with Prof. Israel Strauss, who heads the department.
Each of them told him about the significant change in attitude in the ultra-Orthodox community toward mental illness, which previously carried a stigma and public embarrassment for many families.
In parting from Litzman during their visit, Rivlin surprised the minister by wishing him happy birthday. Litzman celebrated his 70th birthday last week.