Deaf Israel Resource Page
Deaf-related Places of Interest
- Holon Children’s Museum, Invitation to Silence: The Children’s Museum in Holon hosts a permanent exhibit on the experience of being Deaf and using ways other than one’s voice to communicate, including hand movements and body language.
- Nalaga’at Center: The Nalaga’at Center includes the Blackout restaurant, in which food is served in the dark by blind waiters; Café Kapish, a café run by an all-deaf staff; and the Nalaga’at Threatre, with performances by deaf, deaf-blind, and hearing actors. Nalaga’at is usually only open three or four nights a week, so check their schedule before planning to go.
Ulpans/Hebrew Courses for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People
Hebrew ulpans for deaf and hard-of-hearing immigrants are offered if there is sufficient need, usually a minimum of 10 students enrolled in a class. Contact the offices below to find out when these specialized ulpans are being offered:
Israel Deaf Association
Ben Yehuda 23, 4th floor
In addition, the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel offers Israeli Sign Language courses throughout the year. To inquire about when these classes are offered, contact Noa at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Pay It Forward at email@example.com to inquire about learning ISL.
Interpreter Training Programs in Israel
There is one ISL/Hebrew interpreter training program in Israel, located at Bar Ilan University.
The sign language of use in Israel is Israeli Sign Language. However, with the large number of immigrants, there are a handful of interpreters who are proficient in other signed languages, including American Sign Language and Russian Sign Language. Most of these interpreters, though, do not work as professional interpreters and may be limited in their availability.
American Sign Language is not uncommon in Israel, used both by immigrants who learned ASL prior to arriving and by native Israelis who have learned ASL as a second language. While some Deaf Israelis may know a few signs or have a working knowledge of ASL, few speak it fluently.
Like many other places, a variety of types of Deaf education exist in Israel. This includes oral approaches, signed approaches, and bi-lingual/bi-cultural approaches. Some methods are more popular than others, depending on the area of the country. Cochlear implants have also become much more common in Israel, with many (if not most) children receiving them, and many Deaf schools are being consolidated or closing. An in-depth review of Deaf education in Israel can be found here.
Accessibility Law and Rights in Israel
The People With Disability Rights law, passed in 1999, forbids discrimination against people with disabilities and gives them equal standing under the law. It also outlaws employment discrimination based on disability, and ensured access to appropriate sign language and interpreting services for Deaf people. However, the implementation of the law has been slow. As of 2011, the full implementation of the law had yet to be written. Some provisions have been determined, though: every Deaf Israeli gets 45 hours of interpretation per year to use as they wish (e.g. doctor’s appointments, weddings, business meetings, etc.). Deaf people have also been given access to higher education in recent years, though this must first be approved by the Ministry of Health, who pays for the interpreting services.
Deaf People and Halacha
Many different laws and interpretations of laws exist regarding disability and Halacha. Some information is published below regarding a variety of topics. See the next section for information on Halacha and conversion of Deaf people to Judaism. A brief summary can be found here.
- Marriage: There can be some special challenges for Deaf people marrying in Israel. In the past, the ketubah given to deaf people marrying was the same as that given to minors and the cognitively impaired. However, many rabbis nowadays use the same ketubah for Deaf people that they use for hearing people. If wishing to marry in Israel, it is important to check with the rabbi performing the marriage to ensure that the ketubah is satisfactory to all parties.
Also note that all marriages performed in Israel are performed under the auspices of religious authorities; there is no civil marriage in Israel. Jewish marriages are performed according to Orthodox Jewish law. This can cause problems for Deaf converts to Judaism (see below) or those not recognized as Jewish under Halachic law.
- Divorce: Deaf people follow the same process as hearing people in requesting a divorce (get). However, if a man becomes deaf following his marriage, he is not eligible for divorce under Halachic law.
The laws concerning many aspects of Judaism are very complicated, and opinions on practice and interpretation of law can vary from denomination to denomination, community to community, and even rabbi to rabbi. It is recommended that you consult your own rabbi about these laws before making any plans concerning marriage or divorce in Israel.
A few links are provided below for your reference. Note that some links use out-dated terminology when referring to the Deaf community which some people may find offensive.
- The Physically and Mentally Disabled: Insights Based on the Teachings of Rav Moshe Feinstein
- Deaf and Dumb (Mute) in Jewish Law
- Halacha Concerning the Deaf
- Disability and Judaism: Society’s Influence on Halacha
- The Status of the Heresh and Sign Language
The Recognition of Deaf People Who Have Converted to Judaism
The recognition of one’s conversion to Judaism is at the discretion of the rabbinical courts in Israel. In the past, some deaf converts to Judaism have been denied aliyah because their conversion was not recognized by the Orthodox rabbinical courts due to their hearing loss. However, rabbis outside Israel, specifically those in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, may not have these same restrictions. It is highly recommended that anyone, Deaf or hearing, who has converted to Judaism ensure that their conversion will be recognized in Israel before beginning the aliyah process.
Deaf Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in Israel
Occasionally families with Deaf children come to Israel for their child’s bar/bat mitzvah. These ceremonies can be arranged through local rabbis and synagogues. Most synagogues and rabbis in Israel are Orthodox; however there is a growing number of Conservative and Reform communities in Israel as well.
Making aliyah as a Deaf person
Deaf Jews are eligible for aliyah, same as their counterparts (note: see above section on Deaf Jewish converts). Many topics must be addressed when an individual or family makes aliyah, including the availability of schools, language training, job availability and training, and legal rights under Israeli law. Some topics are covered in other parts of this document, but topics specific to settling in Israel will be addressed here, briefly.
- Employment: The job market for Deaf people can be very limited, both because of the limitations on annual interpreting hours per person and because of discrimination on the part of employers. Additionally, the absorption of Deaf people from other countries has not been without its own difficulties,as is seen in the Israeli Russian Deaf community. Like with any immigration, it is highly that you work to secure employment before arriving in Israel.
- Language lessons: Hebrew ulpans are available for 6 months free-of-charge according to your aliyah benefits. Occasionally, ulpans specifically for Deaf people are run. Additionally, ISL classes are held regularly throughout the country. See the section on Ulpans above for more information on these special ulpans and ISL classes.
- Education: Various are available to students from grades K-12, such as inclusive programs (deaf program within a hearing school) and mainstream programs, in addition to Deaf schools. Interpreting and support services in and university are subject to approval by the National Insurance Institute (Israeli Social Security/Social Insurance).