“When you see a tragedy such as the one we experienced yesterday, it makes you wonder where you are really safe and where you’re not.”

Less than a day after the tragic episode in Florida, the Mayor visited the Shalva National Center, and referred to the shooting incident that took 17 lives.

Last week, Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez visited Shalva, the Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, in Jerusalem, accompanied by several associates.

The visit resonated with the mayor on a personal level as well, as a member of his family was diagnosed with autism and chromosomal deficiencies.

Suarez and his friends were treated to a personal tour by the Shalva CEO, Yochanan Samuels, who introduced them to the organization’s activities.  In addition, the group visited the center’s various facilities, including kindergartens, swimming pools and a gymnasium, in which the mayor showed off his basketball skills. They met children who attend Shalva and learn there, enjoyed a performance by the band’s soloists, and treated themselves to lunch at Café Shalva, situated within the center, and which employs people with disabilities.

Before leaving, Suarez met Yossi Samuels, the son of Shalva’s founders, whose care as a child was the impetus for the creation of Shalva.  Yossi, blind and deaf, who communicates through tactile sign language in the palm of his hand, thanked the mayor for his visit and asked him to introduce him to President Trump.  The mayor invited him to visit Miami, and said that the day will come when Yossi himself will be more important than Donald Trump.

Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami: “Wow, it’s overwhelming to see a facility that is this comprehensive, this inclusive, that has a mission that is this profound. To know there is such a facility in this world gives me hope to see these children and adults learning to become integrated into this world.  To me, what’s most significant is the gift to the world that these children and adults represent, not only to their families, but to the world. Institutions like this highlight that gift and provide that gift to the world, certainly here to Israel.

“There were many emotional moments for me, from the moment I arrived until now.  One of the most moving was not only hearing the band perform, but one of the singers, Dina Samta, was blind; and to hear her talk about her dream to come to Miami was for me very touching. I feel very blessed.  From all my time in Israel, this has probably been the most impactful part of my visit.”

Yochanan Samuels, CEO of Shalva: “The mayor of Miami’s visit was extraordinary, occurring at a difficult time for him, after the terrible shooting in Florida. Nevertheless, he devoted his full attention to the visit at the center, enjoyed meeting the children, and was visibly moved and cried when the children hugged him.”