Etgarim, which means “challenges” in Hebrew, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment and social integration of people with disabilities through outdoor sports. Etgarim was founded in 1995 by a group of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans and civilians with disabilities and senior rehabilitation professionals. Through programs that Etgarim operates throughout the country, we enable children, adolescents and adults with disabilities to engage in sports and outdoor activities and through this activity, to be rehabilitated physically, mentally and socially.
Etgarim offers activities for disabled IDF veterans, victims of terrorist actions, victims of car accidents, children and adolescents with physical or sensory disabilities, people on the autism spectrum, Cerebral Palsy or degenerative diseases, hearing impairment or deafness, vision impairment or blindness, behavioral problems, learning disabilities and youth at risk.
Our activities are based on the most advanced methods of modern rehabilitative psychology, with a focus on the person’s ability and not their disability. Using Adventure Based Therapy, Etgarim acts to enable the fulfillment of personal potential, to cultivate excellence and to create a new, positive self-image among those with disabilities and within Israeli society at large.
Etgarim runs a full program of rehabilitative after-school activities for children and youth, encourages family participation, organizes field trips and integrates individuals with disabilities in both popular and competitive sports. Today over 5,000 youth and 1000 adults are enrolled in Etgarim programs.
The organization makes sports centers and clubs accessible, purchases special sports equipment and adapts existing equipment to meet its needs, trains coaches and counselors. Etgarim also works closely with academic institutions, initiating academic research and creating teaching programs for inclusion of those with disabilities
Etgarim has received numerous awards in Israel and internationally for its achievements, including the President’s Medal presented by Israeli President Shimon Peres, the Teva Prize for Excellence in Education and the International Leading Social Innovation Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos. Moreover, Etgarim’s sailing and bicycling teams have competed in Special Olympics and world championships, and have placed within the top ten since 2000.
In over 20 years of existence, Etgarim has created significant social change in the perception of those with disabilities. We have given hope, inspiration and confidence to thousands of children, adolescents and adults with disabilities. In Israel today there are many more people with disabilities who live in the margins of the society. As Etgarim grows, we will be able to reach out to many more, to give them hope and to help them integrate productively into Israeli society.