Efrat and Matanel to the White House: Yes WE Can

Efrat Dotan and Matanel Bitton are two of Shalva’s young adults with disabilities. Efrat is 26 years old and has Down syndrome while Matanel Bitton is 19 years old and has developmental disabilities. For a year and a half, they toured Israel and interviewed well-known personalities. Asking original and sometimes challenging questions, both Matanel and Efrat prove that charisma and personal charm can effortlessly close the gaps that separate individuals with and without disabilities.

Among the personalities that have faced the Bitton/Dotan microphone are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham, President Shimon Peres, Philanthropist Shari Arison and supermodel Bar Rafaeli. The Israel Press Association has presented them with press credentials and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Danny Ayalon, appointed them as Israel’s ‘Good Will Ambassadors’. The concept is a joint initiative of Shalva and the popular Ynet news website.

Efrat and Matanel hit the international scene on a recent trip to the AIPAC Conference in Washington DC.  These two young people were able to ask questions about the America-Israel relationship and make it one step closer to getting to the White House. The two journalists with disabilities spent considerable time campaigning for Gilad Shalit, former captive IDF soldier, and since his release have managed to meet and foster a relationship with him.

A documentary film about this project was produced and, without a doubt, the resulting footage is both dramatic and powerful. Special Interview has been screened at film festivals throughout the world and has been referred to as “exceptional entertainment.”

Matanel Bitton and Efrat Dotan have begun to challenge public opinion about individuals with mental disabilities and have already opened the doors to new opportunities for this community. They are wonderful examples of societal integration and previously untapped human potential.