Their world is very similar to ours, but it is so different. It is often ruled by the absence of contours, colors, sounds, and everything else without which we could not live. In this world, touch is often everything. Although different, they all have desires, aspirations, and ambitions. They rejoice, suffer, and endeavor to bring as much life as possible into their reality, just as we do.
The port of Jaffa in Tel Aviv has a unique center – Nalaga’at (translated from Hebrew – please, touch). The uniqueness of this center for art and culture is not reflected in spectacular performances, ones you have never seen and experienced before. The difference is that blind, mute, and deaf people work in the center in the theater, restaurant, and cafe.
At that time the idea of forming this unique theater troupe started nearly 20 years ago. Actress Adina Tal was in charge of assembling a performing team out of these exceptional people, all to spread the idea of equality, regardless of any diversity. What seemed almost impossible to others and she simultaneously represented a significant challenge that completely changed Adina’s life and the lives of numerous program participants. Nevertheless, realizing this idea took many years, so the first show was performed in front of an audience in 2003. At the time, this was the only theater troupe with blind and deaf actors; some were even mute.
Even though I knew a lot about how this center worked, it wasn’t easy to understand how this was possible. And the answer to my question was straightforward: These people have an immense passion for life, socializing, and new experiences. They want to show us who they are and how much power, determination, and diligence each possesses.
Nalaga’at is a non-profit center where people of different religions, sexes, and nationalities work. Out of a total of 145 employees, 75 are people with disabilities. This center is home to the Nalaga’at Theater, Kapish café, and BlackOut restaurant.
Unlike the actors, people who work in the restaurant are entirely blind, and those who work in the café are mute. The concept is based on the idea that all visitors see life without one of the senses, at least for a few hours. I will try to briefly describe my experience in the center to understand why you must visit this place if you ever find yourself in Israel.
During my visit to Nalaga’at, the show “Not by Bread Alone” was performed. And I must admit that what I experienced that evening exceeded all my expectations—eleven actors on the scene who cannot even see or hear you. Despite the absence of any plot, every minute was valuable and worthy of attention. A seemingly ordinary thing – kneading and baking bread, was much more in this case.
Looking at how they work, we are slowly drawn into their world, where there is no light and sound. This play is made out of touch, music, and sign language. While making bread, they talk about the essence of life with whom they would like to share it. About the faces of dear people, their voices, and everything they remember. Because not all of these people were born deaf and blind, some went blind and deaf during their childhood or early youth.
Powerful, disarming, and poignant. You will come out of the theatre changed. And I could not avoid noticing that their world was everything but dark and sad.
After completing this extraordinary performance, a new, exhilarating experience followed – a dinner at the BlackOut restaurant. When it was opened, this was a unique restaurant in the world. Today, restaurants of this type exist in several other world metropolises. BlackOut offers an excellent culinary experience. You will do all you usually do in any restaurant here, only in complete darkness. Before entering the dark room, we left everything that could emit light: cameras and mobile phones. We were allowed to relate to, at least in those 90 minutes, the amount of time a meal lasts, those who spent their entire life without light. We entered the restaurant one behind the other, hands placed on the shoulders of the person in front of us.
We followed the lines on the floor so the blind servers moved easily. The food was served in complete darkness, and the blind servers brought it. They poured our wine and unmistakably knew how not to overfill the glass. The inability to see food will sharpen your sense of smell and taste, and if you choose the surprise menu, you may not even guess what you are eating. You can talk to the person who served you at the end of the dinner. I asked. I listened and felt an endless affection for a woman who responded and who, regardless of her handicap, noticed a lot, surprisingly. I realized that much could be seen with my eyes closed.
After the evening, I could not stop thinking about the endless possibilities for people with difficulties when integrated into society. Remember that these people are often lonely and need to feel useful. The Nalaga’at center is an example to follow to get as many individuals as possible to create, express themselves artistically and earn money. Because, as these actors tell us: They need the bread they are baking, but that is not enough. And, as we do, they need far more than bread for a fulfilling life and happiness.
That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed Please, touch. For more stories from Israel, click HERE.