Good People Good Work
Al-Manarah: Nazereth’s Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (In Arabic)      
Today’s Good People, Good Works will be presented in Arabic and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Welcome, cherished viewers, to this week’s edition of Good People, Good Works, the first in a two-part series featuring the Nazareth-based non-profit organization Al-Manarah – Association for the Advancement of persons with disabilities in the Arab Society in Israel or “Al-Manarah” for short.

Al-Manarah provides assistance to approximately 6,000 blind and visually impaired Arabs living in Israel. Founded in 2005 by Abbass Abbass, Al-Manarah’s mission is to encourage clients to integrate themselves into the community, know their rights and gain access to governmental resources and services.

Let’s now hear from Mr. Abbass, the group’s current director, about the significance of the name “Al-Manarah.”

Al-Manarah means “Lighthouse” in Arabic. We named it this name because we want Al-Manarah to be the guide, to lead the people with visual disabilities to what we call the “safe coast.” Symbolically, they are in the sea, and they are facing many, many, many, many challenges, and we want to help them to go to the safe coast. But in addition, we want also to lead the whole society, especially the Arab society, to see the people with visual disabilities, to give them the opportunity to be included actively in society.

To help clients empower themselves and become more independent, Al-Manarah created a phone-assistance line in 2009.

Al-Manarah established the phone- assistance line, which is nationwide, which operates approximately 20 hours a week, and within that phone-assistance line, it provides information about the services and the rights for the blind and visually impaired.

I am Mahmoud Khatib and I have a visual impairment. I'm the coordinator of the Empowerment and Developing Skills project. Through this project, I guide the blind and people with visual impairment and their families. I am also the coordinator of the phone counseling assistance line, where I receive calls from the blind and people with visual impairment and all those related to them.

The phone counseling assistance line by Al-Manarah has been operating for more than two years. The main goal is to receive calls from the blind and people with visual impairment to inform them about their rights they may have with governmental institutions and in legal proceedings. That is, services that they can get from institutions as well as the (Al-Manarah) Association, in addition to psychological and social support.

In addition, it provides what you call “emotional support” because many blind and visually impaired (people) suffer from loneliness, stay at home, and they need someone to hear them, to talk to, to relieve them so the phone assistance is a great medium for them. The majority of the staff have undergone rehabilitation, and they are basically social workers.

In the first phase, the phone line operated for three days a week, three hours each time. In the second phase, it became almost operated seven days a week, by extending the number of hours. Of course, the social worker receives the call, where the dialogue lasts about 20 minutes. Through this call, the person raises the problem or asks any question. It is a kind of dialogue; if the person didn't get the answer immediately, then the social worker registers the details of that person to continue the talk later.

Since the launch of the line, one of the callers was a girl who couldn't get any education or even any vocational training. She spends most of her time in the house where she has no place to go and most of her siblings are married, so she feels lonely. She raised her problem and the circumstances she faces on the phone and became a caller almost on a weekly basis. Through the phone line, we started checking the possibilities, where she can go and activities she could participate in.

Today, this girl participates in many activities where she has gradually come out of isolation to the extent that she comes here, to the (Al-Manarah) Association, where she participates in one of its groups. Thus, she didn't feel lonely anymore, and the feelings of isolation started lessening; that is, she has become more open to the community, all thanks to our phone assistance, and the services and activities within the (Al-Manarah) Association .

However, when phone support is not enough to address an individual’s needs, one-on-one help is given at Al-Manarah.

In addition to the phone assistance, Al-Manarah has developed a service, what you would call “personal assistance,” so that the blind and visually impaired can have a face-to-face meeting with a social worker or psychologist and they get emotional support and some coaching and some empowerment. In individual meetings, I get acquainted with the person, his life and the problems he or she faces. Individual meetings are a kind of treatment, and may last for several sessions, days, months or even a full year.

Being visually-impaired since childhood, Mahmoud Khatib deeply understands his clients’ ongoing efforts to overcome life’s challenges and earnest desire to contribute to society.

Because I am blind, I also faced difficulties in my life, in various stages, in childhood, and then at school, in the teens, and then as a young (person) in the university. I know how the blind person faces difficulties and challenges in the community, and how the blind are trying to build expertise and capabilities.

So, through my own experience as a blind person and my expertise as a social worker, I see that there is a need to provide services and activities which embrace this group in trying to work with them in all phases and in various aspects of life, whether in terms of working inside home, or in terms of education, skills and being involved in society in general. This is, as I imagine, the goal of developing, enabling and encouraging the individual to be able to help himself and be active like everyone else in the community.

Al-Manarah is also producing excellent self-help material for its clients.

We believe at Al-Manarah that we don't have to just provide services. We have to empower them, and let them become self-advocates, to know their rights. So the first thing that Al-Manarah has done is produced a CD manual of the rights and services for the people with visual disabilities in Israel in Arabic language. The (Israeli) Ministry of Welfare heard about this project, and wanted to adopt it for the Jewish people with visual disabilities in the Hebrew language. So this was the first step by Al-Manarah.

Later, Al-Manarah established dozens of training groups in several issues; first of all, empowerment and leadership groups for youth, for university students, for academics and for homebound blind. Homebound blind means blind people who don't go to university.

(They) finish their school studies and stay at home helpless and they don’t have any framework to help them. So Al-Manarah established several groups. So what is very important to emphasize is that Al-Manarah is a nationwide organization. It is actually based in Nazareth. But it supports and provides services for the blind people in Arab society in the whole country, from the North to the Triangle area in the middle of Israel and to the South in the Negev area, (where) there live what you call Bedouin Arabs.

And in addition, Al-Manarah has founded the first Arab Braille and a audio library. So in our multicenter here we have a computer room and Braille printer in which we have workshops for computing for people with visual disabilities. And in addition, we produce Braille books for them. So Al-Manarah is working and has already published or produced many books for people with visual disabilities.

And this year we are planning to produce all the school books for the blind children in the Arab schools. Besides the Braille department, we have the recording studio. I will tell you my personal story, I do like to read many books, but how? I haven’t studied Braille. So how to do so? So I purchased many audio books. But all of my audio books that I study and I hear are in English.

So at Al-Manarah, we decided to produce audio books in Arabic and we are dreaming to have this small recording studio as a nucleus for a huge audio library, which can benefit all people with visual disabilities in the Arab world. In addition to producing audio books and Braille books, Al-Manarah also produces large-print books for people who have visual impairment.

In addition, Al-Manarah advocates on behalf of the people with visual disabilities. How do we do that? We do that through litigation and lobbying. For example, Al-Manarah managed to install audio-traffic lights for people with visual disabilities, for example, in Nazareth and some Arab villages. In addition, Al-Manarah is litigating on the behalf of the people with visual disabilities in order to improve accessibility for people with visual disabilities such as improving pavements, roads, buildings, publishing information in Braille or in audio, etc.

To sum up, let’s hear Mahmoud Khatib’s dream for the blind and visually impaired.

My dream is to see blind people already involved in various aspects of life. There are many blind people who reach university, or learn and enter supplementary courses. But very few of them are involved in the community, especially in terms of work.

My dream would be to translate the education and skills acquired by the blind and people with visual impairment in a form of integration in daily life at various levels, whether in terms of social aspects, like participating in social gatherings and in family events or in making a real involvement in work, meaning that institutions must accommodate these capabilities and competencies. The blind and people with visual impairment have these capabilities and competencies like everyone else.

Our heartfelt appreciation Abbass Abbass and Mahmoud Khatib as well as the staff and volunteers at Al-Manarah for passionately helping the blind and visually impaired members of your community. It is wonderful to see the loving encouragement you provide through your counseling, equipment and facilities. May Al-Manarah continue its tradition of excellence in serving its clients and reach many, many more of those needing its services in the years to come.

For more information on Al-Manarah, please visit

Please join us again next Monday for the second and final part of our program on Al-Manarah. Thank you, caring viewers, for your presence on this episode of Good People, Good Works. May Divine Providence shower freedom on each of us in the areas of love, beauty and creativity.
Today’s Good People, Good Works will be presented in Arabic and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

In addition to training, we also arrange summer camps for blind school children because we do believe that children have equal rights to enjoy all activities.

Welcome, cordial viewers, to this week’s edition of Good People, Good Works, the conclusion of a two-part series featuring the Nazareth-based non-profit organization Al-Manarah – Association for the Advancement of persons with disabilities in the Arab Society in Israel or “Al-Manarah” for short.

Al-Manarah provides assistance to approximately 6,000 blind and visually impaired Arabs living in Israel. Founded in 2005 by Abbass Abbass, who currently serves as the group’s director, Al-Manarah’s mission is to encourage clients to integrate themselves into the community, know their rights and gain access to governmental resources and services.

Last week, we learned about some of Al-Manarah’s laudable initiatives such as its phone-assistance line for the blind. This week we’ll learn of other ways Al-Manarah builds constructive environments for the people it serves so these individuals can thrive and contribute further to society. But first, let’s hear from Mahmoud Khatib, Coordinator of Empowerment and Developing Skills for Al-Manarah, about what makes this organization unique.

The Al-Manarah Association is almost the only and the first of its kind in the community. It considers people with visual impairments as persons who have real capabilities. And it started working with them on the issue of rehabilitation and the acquisition of skills for involving themselves in the community. The majority of the institutions and sectors pay more attention to material assistance (to them) than the awareness and psychological and cultural aspects.

For developing a person and making him integrate, I need above all to build him internally by strengthening his character and enhancing his capabilities. In my opinion, this is what Al-Manarah Association works on; that is, self-strengthening and self-developing so the blind and the ones with visual impairment achieve independence in spite of disability. By independence, one can accomplish and achieve his objectives.

To help the blind and visually impaired gain confidence in themselves, Al-Manarah incorporates the instructional methods of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, an approach to psychotherapy that promotes constructive thinking.

And I want to clarify that all the training and all the workshops are based in what we call NLP methodology. NLP means Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is positive psychology. This means that despite the disabilities, you have all the time to be optimistic. You have all the time to find the energies to awaken the giant within. We do believe that everyone, even though he is disabled or has a disability, has a giant within.

But he has to awaken this giant. He has to believe in his abilities, he has to be persistent. He has to be, over time, full of energy to proceed. All people have obstacles in their way. But they have to overcome all the obstacles and have the power to overcome all these obstacles.

Positive psychology means that all the time you have to look at the full side of the cup. You don’t have to say, “Oh, I am disabled, I am weak, I can’t do anything, I can’t see, I have many problems.” No, you have to say, “Okay, I am visually disabled, but I have the energies. I have to challenge myself. I have all the time to improve my education, to improve my skills to be an equal member (of society).” And we do believe that your behavior depends on your feelings. If you feel that you are good, you’ll be good. If you feel positively, you’ll be positive.

To help visually impaired children better merge into schools and communities, Al-Manarah leads school workshops that teaches sighted students about connecting with those with special needs.

So for the community, we have established a wonderful project called, “Social Raising Awareness.” The Social Raising Awareness project includes conducting hundreds of workshops for students titled, "Accepting the Different Other." Within the workshops, we expose regular students to the world of the visually disabled through, first of all, theoretical activities and through practical activities.

For example, we start a discussion on how they relate when they meet a person with a visual disability. So after we hear from them, we give them guidance, the good ways to relate to people with visual disabilities. On the practical part, for example, we show them the blind cane and how it is a means (to get around). After that, we show them the equipment; for example, the cell phone, the computer, the Braille book, in order to let them see that we are bit different but we have many things in common.

We are feeling, we are dreaming, we are loving, we are studying, we have many, many things in common. So you should accept us as active members (of society), and you should change your attitudes.

Al-Manarah also endeavors to help parents better understand their visually impaired children.

In addition to the school workshop, we conduct many seminars for parents and for professionals. For parents, we conduct seminars in order to change the attitude of the parents of people with visual disabilities toward their children.

Because many parents or most of the parents relate to their children on one hand, in what we call an overprotective manner, and on the other hand, in a negligent manner because they don't accept them or they want to overprotect them because they do believe that they are weak, they are helpless, so they have to protect them.

So we teach them, within our seminars, we give them means of good socialization for their children, how to believe in their children, how to give them the power, to raise them in an independent manner, and how also to let them enjoy their rights and the services, that, for example, the state offers for them, and also expose the parents to the technologies that they can give to their kids, such as the computer, many technologies such as voice-driven computers, the Braille display, the magnifier, and all the machines that can help their children to get the best education.

Putting parents of special needs children, especially mothers, into discussion groups helps them in child-raising. Mahmoud Khatib now tell us more.

For example, the Association of Al-Manarah established an empowerment and skills developing group for mothers of children with visual impairment. Through this group, mothers raise the matter of disability in full, since they knew that their son or daughter was born blind, (went) up to school and the university and how they got through all these stages in addition to the challenges and difficulties they faced.

All these issues are discussed in the group, and the group is considered as an outlet to express their maternal feelings. In such a group, for example, as the mothers’ group, the common ground between them is that they are mothers of children with visual impairment, so then the mother feels that she is not alone in this situation, but there are others.

That is, it is possible to speak about our problems, it is possible to speak about our pain, it is possible to speak about our concerns. This (discussion) may relieve pain and provide support, especially when they are accompanied by a professional who has experience and all the skills that qualify him to be able to deal with such conditions, with mothers who have children with visual impairment.

Al-Manarah also has other ways to help prepare community members to work with the blind and visually impaired and appreciate this population’s many abilities.

In addition to the seminars for the parents, we conduct seminars for the professionals, such as social workers and teachers. And in these seminars we also expose them to what we call “human-dignity relation,” how they should relate to the students and to their clients in a human-dignity manner, full of respect, not just as people in need who want services, but first of all, you have to respect them. In addition, we distribute flyers and magazines within the seminars.

So Al-Manarah has established a very wonderful flyer called, "Be Kind to the Blind," in which we give some instructions how to relate to a blind or visually impaired person when you meet them; for example, if you meet a blind person in the street, how you could guide them in a very respectful manner.

In addition, we established a wonderful magazine, called “Manarat.” Manarat means plural of Manarah (lighthouse). Because we do believe that every article in the magazine is a lighthouse in the world for people with visual disabilities. Manarat magazine includes success stories about people with visual impairment; in addition, educational articles, and it also covers several activities. And fortunately, we have many activities every year.

In closing, let’s again hear from Abbass Abbass, who has messages for both sighted and visually impaired people.

First of all, I have a message to the whole world, to the sighted people. Please, be more tolerant, love each other. Please respect each other. And please accept the different others. We don’t have to be in common in everything. We can be in common in some fields, but it’s okay for us if we are different.

Please accept the different others so that the nations understand each other. And for the people with visual disabilities, please, you have to first of all accept your disabilities, you have to feel it. You have to feel positive with your disabilities. You are not responsible for your disabilities, so you have to understand it and to think that despite that you are disabled, you have many, many abilities, you have other senses.

You have to develop what we call alternative skills. Despite (the fact) you don’t see, but you hear very well, you smell very well, and you touch very well. So you have to use them and use them perfectly. So please be optimistic, be positive. To be blind, if you’re satisfied with your blindness, it’s a great gift.

Thank you, Abbass Abbass and Mahmoud Khatib and all the other staff members and volunteers of Al-Manarah for your loving assistance to the blind and visually impaired in your community. May the group’s accomplishments and ongoing efforts continue to bring smiles to the faces of those with special visual needs.

For more information on Al-Manarah, please visit

Blessed viewers, thank you for joining us on this episode of Good People, Good Works. May we always cherish all the beauty and goodness in our world.

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