In early February 2014, Ariel Development Fund hosted Aaron Goldberg, Director of the Israel Office of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, which had sent a mission to Ariel in 2012. Aaron spent the afternoon in Ariel following as part of his day trip to Judea and Samaria to deepen his understanding of daily life in the area as well its historical and strategic importance to the Jewish people. But the most moving part of the visit was a meeting with students Udi and Sahar at Ariel University.
As a young man on the autistic spectrum, Udi, a 3rd year student, articulately described how he could not have realized and understood his full potential to succeed in life if not for Ariel University’s special program that works to integrate autistic students into its academic studies. The program assigns “buddies” to live and work with autistic students so that they could overcome communication challenges caused by autism and interact effectively with others. In fact, Udi is a major in communications, and he credits the program with his ability to speak in front of the group so confidently. But he is most proud of a more personal achievement: finding the love of his life, another autistic student at Ariel University.
Sahar spoke of his experience as a “buddy” who rooms with an autistic student. He believes he actually gains the most by gaining a real friend and also raising awareness about autism among college campuses.
We were glad for the opportunity to welcome Aaron and to show him a side of Ariel that is not often exposed in mainstream media. We look forward to welcoming him and L.A. Jewish Federation delegations in the future.