The word ‘Shalva’ means ‘peace of mind’ or ‘serenity’ in Hebrew.
The Shalva Band, based in Israel, consists of members who represent a variety of intellectual developmental disabilities and physical impairments. The Band members’ disabilities include blindness, Down syndrome, and Williams syndrome.
The Shalva Band was established in 2005 and has been in existence for nearly sixteen years. It began when the director of the band, Shai Ben-Shushan suggested the idea to the founder of Shalva, Kalman Samuels. Shai did not have any previous involvement in the Shalva organization or working with people with disabilities; however, he, like the organization’s founder, had a personal promise to fulfill. In 2005 Shai had recently recovered from a serious injury from his service in one of the IDF’s elite units. He was injured in a complex military mission in which his commander was killed and several other soldiers were severely injured. Shai found himself undergoing several surgeries and rehabilitative treatments and personally struggling with the physical limitations that an individual with disabilities might experience. Once fully recovered, Shai decided that he would give back to the community by sharing his love and talent for music with children with disabilities.
He formally began the Shalva Band as a component of Shalva’s music therapy program. Gradually, the band became an entity of its own and a social enterprise of the organization.
The Shalva Band hopes that with each performance the world will become a more accepting and inclusive place. By recognizing the Shalva Band’s ability to create beautiful and meaningful music, audiences are essentially realizing their own ability to regard people with disabilities as respected, equal, and contributing members of society. Here are comments from some band members:
The two vocalists, Anael Khalifa and Dina Samteh’s amazing voices brings listeners to tears during their performances. Here are their thoughts about being on stage and using their voice to inspire change while bringing to the forefront of people’s minds the fact that having a disability should not hinder you from pursuing your passion.
The Shalva Band performs by invitation on stages across Israel and around the world. All of their performances are memorable but one in particular profoundly touched the hearts of listeners all over the world – their soulful, emotionally-stirring, unforgettable performance of A Million Dreams at Eurovision 2019.
The Shalva National Center
The Shalva National Center is one of the largest centers for disability care and inclusion in the world. The center was officially opened in September 2016 in response to a growing need for advanced rehabilitative services for individuals with disabilities and in recognition of Shalva’s pioneering program development in this field. The campus includes an expansive inclusive playground and a main building which is 200,000 square feet in size. Each of the eleven stories of the Shalva National Center serves Shalva’s different programs. As such, the center has some of the largest and most advanced disability accessible facilities; including an inclusive sports complex with a hydrotherapy swimming pool, a semi-Olympic swimming pool, gymnasium, and fitness room. The center also has facilities which are open to the public; such as an auditorium, seminar rooms, and a café. In addition to housing Shalva’s rehabilitative programs, the center is an inclusive workplace and adults with disabilities work in many of the facilities. The building was intentionally designed to serve as a natural hub of inclusive interaction which is manifest in the ongoing daily activities as well as the building’s unique and beautiful interior design. In times of national crisis, the Shalva National Center serves as Israel’s national emergency center for people with disabilities and can host up to 1,200 individuals in disability accessible safe rooms.
Shalva was founded in 1990 by Kalman and Malki Samuels, whose son, Yossi was rendered blind and deaf, among other challenges, following an injury during his early infancy. At the age of eight, Yossi experienced a communication breakthrough and the Samuels fulfilled their promise to help families with similar challenges by founding Shalva.
Upon the organization’s inception, Shalva’s original and mainstay program, the After School Activity Center, immediately filled a gaping void in rehabilitative opportunities for children with disabilities in Israel. Over the years, as the program developed to include individual and group therapies, summer camps, music bands, and sports teams; parallel respite and family support components became organizational staples as well.
Shalva continued to establish a host of early intervention rehabilitative and educational programs, offering a holistic continuum of disability services from infancy to adulthood. Shalva has been distinguished with several prizes and endorsements; including the Ruderman Prize for Inclusion, the President of Israel’s Prize for Excellence, and the Knesset Speaker’s Quality of Life Prize. In 2018, Shalva was awarded consultative status to the United Nations, distinguished to provide consultation and guidance on disability issues.
Shalva’s management standards continue to be recognized by the ISO 9001/2008 certification and Midot’s Seal for Outstanding Effectiveness. Through over thirty years of partnerships with government ministries, corporations, academic institutions, social development groups, and communities worldwide; Shalva continues to successfully infuse disability inclusion into public policy, cultural platforms, and social discourse.
Of the many programs and services offered, the most utilized is Shalva’s Me and My Mommy program, a unique early intervention program for infant with disabilities and their parents. The program provides rehabilitative therapies and support services to 120 new babies and their parents every year. While this is not Shalva’s largest program, it is the most utilized because people travel from across Israel to attend the program and the majority of infants born with Down syndrome in Israel every year begin their journey at Shalva.
The Shalva Band is a product of the Shalva organization. The Band members’ musical talents were discovered and developed within Shalva’s music therapy programs when they participated in Shalva’s rehabilitative programs as children. Today, the Shalva Band has a recording studio at the Shalva National Center where they often practice between performances.