This week we celebrated a special week with special people with programming prepared exclusively for adults and children with special needs who came with the whole family. The museum staff was prepared for any scenario and ready to extend help as necessary and the entire citadel was set aside for these families.
This is not the first time that we planned challenging activities, prepared unique attractions and polished up the citadel for special people.
How Did It All Start?
In 2016, we started hosting the “Meet at the Tower” activity for families. As demand increased we understood that there is a need to expand the target audience.
This summer, we decided to take the “Meet at the Tower” activity a step forward and alongside the family activities, we initiated a special day for the adult special needs community. In order to create a unique experience, we invited some members of the community to take an active part in carrying out the program.
We contacted the SHEKEL organization (Community Services for People with Special Needs), which happily adopted the innovative project and we got on our way.
The first step in the career of any self-respecting guide is of course a guiding course. In order to prepare the members of the SHEKEL organization to be future guides at the Tower of David Museum, we developed a course to become acquainted with the museum. The unique course began in June and included four meetings in which the participants learned about the museum and the citadel.
The participants learned techniques for public speaking and about the different periods of Jerusalem throughout history. One of the meetings dealt entirely with the planned “Meet at the Tower” activity in order to prepare the future guides to guide the site together with veteran Tower of David guides and to give all of the participants in the activity an unforgettable experience.
In addition, each of the course participants chose a topic or exhibit with which he or she felt a special connection and underwent thorough training with respect to that topic in order to be able to act as a guide by himself or herself and take a central role in the tours that took place on the day of the activity.
At the end of the course the eight participants received a formal certificate and a special guide tag!
The Big Day Arrived – The “Meet at the Tower” Activity
After the new guides completed the first stage in their career, they took on the important role of implementing the course.
After much anticipation and excitement, the day arrived. One hundred forty people – members of the SHEKEL community as well as other organizations – participated in the “Meet at the Tower” activity for the adult community. The program included challenging activities, theatrical performances, craft stations, and of course a guided tour of the museum.
The new guides integrated into the guiding of the tours and assisted in the different activity stations. Family members looked on with pride at the certification that they obtained in the course
Reut Dadon-Kozak, the Coordinator of Special Needs Activities at the museum said,
“The activity was wonderful and exciting. We saw sparks in the eyes of the project participants, the support and encouragement of their friends and, most importantly, the integration of their guiding into the tours and activities.”
“One of the parents told me that it does not just go without saying to see his daughter speaking in front of people, even if it was just a few short sentences. He was so excited to see her that he had tears in his eyes. On a personal level, the experience was wonderful; the integration of the adult community and the confidence they gained vis-à-vis the group is one of the important things that we witnessed.”
One of the residents explained, “I never led a tour before. In the beginning I was afraid but your guide helped me and then I was fine.”
Noam, a resident of SHEKEL who participated in the guide course said that the experience of leading tours was enjoyable and fulfilling. He learned how to deliver complex material in an organized fashion, especially historical facts about an important city like Jerusalem.
In his words, “To tell the story of people who don’t exist anymore is important and exciting.”
In the course of 3,000 years, our ancient citadel has seen more than a few exciting and special events but the pride, happiness and the light that shone in the eyes of the participants of the activities at the museum last week – well, even the silent stones that remember everything had never seen anything like this!