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Disabled young adults offered ‘artsy’ opportunity to bring prayers to the Western Wall

"Note of Hope," a new joint initiative of Israeli organization Shalva and the .ART internet domain, aims to use the power of the Internet to bring prayers from around the world to Jerusalem.

A young woman with disabilities visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem, May 2019. Credit: Courtesy.
A young woman with disabilities visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem, May 2019. Credit: Courtesy.

The directorial staff of Shalva, an organization that provides transformative care for people with disabilities in Israel, is used to being called up about new ideas and projects. But when a friend of the organization reached out to connect them to international Internet domain .ART’s founder, Russian venture capitalist Ulvi Kasimov, Shalva’s team was more than curious.

.ART, an edgy new top-level domain company aiming to be the .gov or .edu for artists, is an international brand partnering with the likes of Portia de Rossi and valuemystuff.com’s Patrick van der Vorst. Its unique domain is attracting artists, museums and galleries.

“First, it was just another charity venue for us, but after visiting Jerusalem for the first time and seeing the Shalva center in reality, I was utterly impressed and touched. I’ve never seen a social project of such scale with such high quality of execution,” said Kasimov.

Following that visit, Kasimov directed .ART to ask Shalva if they would be interested in a partnership: Shalva’s young adult participants would deliver messages to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, sent in via an .ART domain, from people around the globe. .ART, for its part, would donate the domain and all the design work necessary to get the initiative moving.

“After strolling through Jerusalem, I started thinking that in reality, everyone should have an opportunity to make a wish at the Western Wall. However, not everyone can, as life isn’t always fair,” said Kasimov.

The Western Wall has a long drawn people from all religions and backgrounds to write out their prayers, messages and dreams, and place them in the nooks between its massive stones.

Shalva’s Marketing Manager Bluma Sherrow said “it’s a beautiful thing when Israel is on people’s minds. Jerusalem is in a lot of people’s hearts, but not many can visit, and this is a very nice way to stay connected.”

Shalva plans to print the messages twice monthly and will send some of the young adults participating in its programs and therapies on an outing to the ancient landmark. These young adults, delivering these thoughts directly to the Western Wall, play an active role in the meditative practice while benefiting from the joys of going on a field trip.

With offices in Los Angeles, Moscow and Beijing, this is .ART’s first foray into Israel. They plan on several more collaborations, including the Jerusalem.art project, curated by Israel’s Tourism Bureau, aimed at promoting cultural travel to the city.

The clean, new shalva.ART website features Shalva’s signature purple colors and gives visitors a snapshot the organization’s work. As they impart their notes, participants are encouraged, although not required, to choose to donate a few dollars to Shalva as an appreciation for their messenger role directly on the website.

For Jerusalem, this latest global community-building partnership is yet another way to spread a message of the potential benefit to society of embracing people with disabilities as legitimate contributors to society with unique abilities.

“Shalva is about how the world should be,” said Kasimov. “It’s a unique model of an ideal world order. If everything was based on values of inclusion, help and compassion, the world would be different. Hopefully, if we do this now and take these little steps, someday the world will change.”

More information about the program is available at: www.shalva.art.

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