How we began


In 1952, during the polio epidemic in Israel, a group of doctors got together and founded an organization which was intended to provide assistance to the victims and their families. The name of the organization was ILANSHIL – a Hebrew acronym denoting "Israeli Organization on Behalf of Polio Victims". A short time after the establishment of ILANSHIL, Ms. Betty Dubiner joined its ranks, and rapidly became one of the pillars of the organization, which she has remained to this day. Under Betty Dubiner`s leadership, the organization gained momentum, initiated and set in motion assistance programs for the polio victims and their families, and enlisted volunteers and supporters throughout Israel. The objective of ILANSHIL was to assist the handicapped children and their families in any way it could, and it succeeded in doing so. In its initial stages, its members were principally active in raising funds for the provision of treatment and the purchase of equipment for polio victims. They soon realized, however, that this was not enough, and that there were many distressing issues for which solutions and assistance had to be provided. Betty Dubiner, with her connections to various influential persons in Israel`s economy, began to enlist Israel`s leaders and society figures in the cause of the organization. ILANSHIL began to expand on a nationwide scale. One year after its establishment, the organization could already claim credit for three major projects on behalf of the handicapped: organization of scholarships for the study of physiotherapy, with a view to resolving the severe shortage of physiotherapists which prevailed in Israel at the time; assistance to families in the purchase of crutches and orthopedic-rehabilitative equipment; opening the first summer camp for handicapped children – one of ILAN`s major projects to this day.

ILANSHIL recruited a great number of supporters and volunteers. In the course of time, the organization established branches throughout Israel. The first of these branches were opened in Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan; subsequently, branches were opened in Haifa, Jerusalem, Rishon Le-Zion and the north of Israel. These branches serve Israel`s handicapped faithfully to this day.


By 1953, the number of polio victims in Israel had reached 3,000. In that year, in the United States, Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio, and the Israel Ministry of Health entered into protracted negotiations with the United States for the purchase of the vaccine. The problem was that the United States agreed to supply the vaccine only to a national organization for the assistance of polio victims in Israel, and ILANSHIL, the only organization in Israel which was active on behalf of polio victims, did not succeed in gaining national status.

The Ministry of Health found a solution for the problem: it approached Betty Dubiner and asked her to establish a national organization, to which the United States would consent to provide the vaccine. Betty Dubiner agreed to the request; in 1956, she founded the Polio Committee, a national organization for the assistance of Israel`s polio victims. The Polio Committee subsequently merged with ILANSHIL, which had continued to operate alongside it.


In the winter of 1957, the organizations operating on behalf of Israel`s polio victims were crowned with success. The polio vaccine serum was found, and the Ministry of Health and the organizations began to prepare for a nationwide vaccination campaign. ILANSHIL and the Polio Committee merged into a single organization, ILANSHIL-Polio. Together with the Ministry of Health, the new organization was responsible for conducting the great vaccination campaign.

Throughout Israel, vaccination stations were established, and more than 100,000 children between the ages of six months and three years were vaccinated. ILANSHIL-Polio thus became the only organization serving and treating Israel`s polio victims under the auspices of the Israel Ministry of Health, and was recognized as a national organization for the assistance of polio victims in Israel.


In 1958, ILANSHIL-Polio launched another major effort, which, to this day, constitutes the principal means of raising contributions to the present-day ILAN. This is the "March of Dimes", based on an American tradition. This project started that year, thanks to another of Betty Dubiner`s initiatives.

Until the "March of Dimes", the organization`s activists had used a wide variety of means to raise contributions – from the holding of gala evenings and benefit fairs to the launching of donation campaigns in factories and at the workplaces. The common denominator of all these undertakings was their targeting of a specific segment of the population - well-to-do and having the required financial means. The "March of Dimes" marks the beginning of a new kind of fund-raising, in which the donations come not only from the wealthy, but from all sectors of the population, thus creating a sense of coherence and bringing Israel`s collective heart closer to helping the handicapped.

The "March of Dimes" led to an additional positive development. Thanks to the extensive coverage given to the subject of Israel`s handicapped, the victims and their families stopped being ashamed or embarrassed about the disease and its results. Children who had been hidden were openly cared for, and families knew that they had where to go for help.
Ever since that first "March of Dimes", ILAN has been continuing this tradition, holding a nationwide fund-raising campaign every year.


At the outset, ILANSHIL, - and later ILANSHIL-Polio, invested most of its time and efforts in providing individual assistance to the polio victims and their families. This assistance included help in the purchase of equipment and the financing of various special needs.

In 1960, the organization began to develop an additional facet of rehabilitation: rehabilitation by the means of sports. This was the idea behind the establishment of a sports and rehabilitation club adapted to the special needs of the handicapped, a place which would supply physical rehabilitation services while serving as a social venue. The objective was to provide physical education for paralyzed children and adolescents, whose handicaps prevented them from participating in sports classes at their schools in Israel.

At that time, this was considered a revolutionary idea. The link between sports and handicapped people, to many – able-bodied and physically challenged alike – appeared to be unthinkable. The only physical activity which was thought to be appropriate for the handicapped was physiotherapy. Competitive sports were considered `off limits`.

Nonetheless, Betty Dubiner and her supporters, including the then Mayor of Ramat Gan, Abraham Krinitzi, refused to give up. They were the first to understand that participating in competitive sports entails aspects of physical, social and mental rehabilitation. They adamantly insisted that the sports center must be established.

The Municipality of Ramat Gan allocated a plot of land on the banks of the Yarkon River to ILANSHIL-Polio. With the assistance of generous donors, the Spivack Family of the United States, the Spivack Rehabilitation and Sports Center – the first sports club for the handicapped in Israel – was opened in 1960.

In the course of the years, it has been proven that sports indeed constitute an important part of the physical and mental rehabilitative process for the handicapped, as well as an essential means for ensuring the disabled a dignified place for themselves in the leisure and employment spheres in their community.

Some of the children and adolescents using the sports center facilities showed special talent and chose to concentrate on competitive sports. Many are participating in national and international sport events including the Paralympics - the Olympic Games for people with disabilities - and are winning prizes and medals, bringing honor to their families and to the entire country.


In 1964, more than a decade after the polio epidemic was prevailed over, becoming but a distant memory, the second conference of the ILANSHIL-Polio organization took place. At that conference, a proposal was made to extend the services of the organization to children with cerebral palsy. This proposal had been preceded by a series of joint social activities between CP children and polio-stricken children at the Spivack Sports Center.

Some of the members of ILANSHIL-Polio were doubtful about the new idea, which was extensively discussed. Also among the skeptics were members of SHATLAM, Israel's organization for parents of CP children, then headed by Ephraim Raz. The fears of both groups stemmed from the difference between the diseases and their implications. In cerebral palsy, unlike polio which is caused by an infectious virus, most of the damage is to the brain, making it difficult to know how severe the damage is, and whether the child will suffer from physical disability only or from mental retardation as well. The needs engendered by this type of damage are entirely different from those of polio victims; accordingly, the treatment required is also different. Whereas ILANSHIL-Polio sought to integrate the handicapped children into ordinary community frameworks, SHATLAM claimed that CP children required special frameworks, adapted to their unique needs, in order for them to be able to study and progress in life.

The proposal for unification was eventually accepted; ILANSHIL-Polio and SHATLAM merged into ILAN – a Hebrew acronym denoting "Israeli Association for Handicapped Children". Since then, ILAN has coordinated the treatment of all children suffering from disorders of the muscular and nervous system.  

Then ‘til Now . . . Landmarks in the Life of the Foundation


ILAN's activities extend throughout Israel by means of forty-onebranches located from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat. Our staff and thousands ofdevoted volunteers provide assistance to tens of thousands of disabled peoplein a wide range of spheres. Besides rendering services to individuals, ILANassists in the operation of special needs kindergartens and schools throughoutthe country, as well as child development centers in a number of hospitals.ILAN sponsors these institutions by furnishing professional assistance, as wellas financial support taken from contributions it receives.

Our target population relies on the organization for a longlist of rehabilitation services, among them rehabilitative horseback riding andswimming, and physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

Another mission ILAN has taken upon itself is to foster thesocial wellbeing of children under its care. Each year ILAN's summer sleep-awaycamp program affords hundreds of disabled children the chance to participate inactivities just like any other child their age. The program is run with theassistance of the kibbutz movements, other cooperative communities, andthousands of volunteers. With their children away at camp, family members arealso afforded a well-deserved break from the intensive care they provide themthe rest of the year. In addition, ILAN operates social youth movements thatrun weekly activities attended by both handicapped and non-handicapped members.

ILAN's Principle Activities:

  • Supports special education kindergartens and schools
  • Runs projects for integrating disabled children in regular educational frameworks
  • Supports child development centers in hospitals throughout the country
  • Funds educational institutions in their efforts to accommodate special needs pupils, such as field trips; special equipment; and extra staffing
  • Operates hostels for adolescents and young adults with various levels of disabilities
  • Operates rehabilitation and occupational training centers for disabled individuals
  • Operates two well-equipped sports centers to advance rehabilitative and competitive sports
  • Provides millions of shekels each year in assistance to individuals for the procurement of mobility and rehabilitation equipment
  • Provides financial assistance to facilities for the disabled population for the purchase of equipment and for renovations (together with the National Insurance Institute)
  • Operates summer camp and vacation programs for hundreds of children each year
  • Organizes social and leisure activities for young people


ILAN's Landmark Dates:

1953 Israeli doctors establish ILANSHIL - the Israeli Organization on Behalf of Polio Victims
1956 Betty Dubiner, ILANSHIL's preeminent leader, establishes the national Committee for Polio Victims at the request of the Israeli Ministry of Health, in order to meet United States government requirements for providing Israel with polio vaccinations.
1957 The Polio Committee and ILANSHIL merge.
1958 The establishment of "Shatlam" - Israel's Organization for parents of CP children
1958 First ILANSHIL kindergarten established in Tel Aviv
1958 The first March of Dimes drive takes place, combining fundraising with a campaign to increase awareness of the plight and needs of the disabled population
1960 Establishment of the Spivak sports center in Ramat Gan - the first sports center to serve the disabled population of Israel
1961 First summer camp program for polio victims
1962 Establishment of the Onn School for children victims of Cerebral Palsy, by Shatlam.
1963 Shatlam Association receives first international award for advanced treatment of cerebral palsy victims.
1964 ILANSHIL merges with SHATLAM, the Organization for Parents of Children with Cerebral Palsy, to form ILAN - Israel Association for Children with Disabilities
1964 Establishment of the Beit Melichson sheltered workshop in Tel Aviv for the employment and occupational training of disabled individuals, by Shatlam.
1980 Establishment of the first day center in Netanya
1982 The inauguration of Beit Tamar - family hostel for handicapped children in Jerusalem
1985 Inauguration of the rehabilitation and sports center in Kiryat Haim
1987 Resumption of the summer camp program for ILAN children in its present form
1988 Establishment of Beit Miriam in Kiryat Haim - rehabilitation and occupational day center for the severely disabled
1990 Inauguration of the Social Circle - ILAN's youth movement
1998 Establishment of innovative day center in Be'er Sheva for severely disabled individuals
2002 Inauguration of the most innovative and modern hostel for the disabled in the Middle East - Beit Kassler, in Kiryat Haim
2002 ILAN celebrates its fiftieth anniversary - the government of Israel issues a commemorative stamp to honor its years of voluntary service for the benefit of the disabled population in Israel
  Israeli postmark commemorating ILAN's fiftieth anniversary Commemorative stamp honoring ILAN's fiftieth anniversary First day cover for ILAN's fiftieth anniversary commemorative stamp and postmark
2004 Presented the Presidential Award for Volunteerism. In outlining its reasons for presenting the award to ILAN, the committee said, "The Presidential Award for Volunteerism is bestowed on ILAN for its extraordinary achievements. It is a song of praise for an organization of volunteers that does not cease to renew and develop, and to afford as full lives as possible to those on whom providence has not shined."
2010 ILAN was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement - Outstanding Contribution to Society and the Nation.


Excerpts from the Israel Prizecommittee's rationale for awarding the prize to ILAN:

ILAN - Israel's Association for Children with Disabilities - was established in the early 1950s andsince then has devotedly cared for disabled children in an effort to improvetheir quality of life and rehabilitate them. The activities of the organizationextend the length of the entire State of Israel, from Metulla to Eilat. Theorganization has established and continues to maintain sports centers for thehandicapped and day centers for the severely handicapped; it also undertakes toprovide appropriate housing for disabled individuals. The activities of thefoundation are to a large extent based on volunteerism and its inspiringactivities improve the quality of life for those individuals under its care."

"Because ILAN is the oldest andlargest voluntary organization in the country, and because of its impressiveactivities, at this juncture it is befitting to present it with the IsraelPrize in the category of Lifetime Achievement. Through its activities it servesas a role model to society for volunteerism, specifically for the benefit of the less fortunate among us, and has been such since its inception - with love, limitlessdedication, and the utmost professionalism.

For being among the pioneeringvoluntary organizations serving the people in Israel, for innovation andstriving for rehabilitation solutions for the disabled in almost all facets oflife, for outstanding achievement in integrating disabled individuals into thecommunity and improving their quality of life. For all this, in our opinion,ILAN is worthy of receiving the Prize for lifetime achievement."

The main project ILAN is currentlyinvolved in is the establishment and construction of three day centers forseverely handicapped individuals in Jerusalem,Tel Aviv, and Haifa.

These centers are for thoseindividuals who, because of their extremely severe handicaps, have not foundtheir place at existing sheltered workshops or occupational training centers.Here they will receive paramedical treatments and have the opportunity tocontinue their schooling or work in creative and artistic occupations, inkeeping with their skills. The first day center established by ILAN in Be'erSheva has become a symbol and model for organizations around the world thatserve the severely handicapped.