Thousands of Israelis have long discovered the beauty of Kefar Veradim; one of the more blossoming and flourishing communities in the Western Galilee. So did we. However, even we, who already know the green streets of this community, the pretty private homes and the unique shops at the commercial center, rubbed our eyes in disbelief when we found ourselves standing at the entrance to the Gallery-Café Ma’arag.
Like obedient students we followed the instruction and counted six traffic circles from the Eastern entrance to the settlement. And then, as if by magic, a beautiful Coffee House appeared before our eyes. Some of its walls transparent, its furniture of the very best design; and customers occupying its’ every available space. On the outside, the café was surrounded by a blossoming garden. The whole sight was a celebration to the eyes, and invigorating to the nose that had already sensed the aroma of coffee arising and swirling in the air.
At that moment we felt that if there is anything we should be telling our friends traveling the North of Israel, it is the location of this beautiful café. Later on, when we entered, we understood that this is not merely a coffee house, but rather something greater and more important by far, and our hearts well filled with pride. Though we could not find a sitting place, we at least managed to find Shlomi, the manager of the ‘Ma’arag – People, Art, and Café’.
And thus, between coffee fumes and the aroma of pastry, listening to the small-talk of coffee goers, mostly local residents who are well informed of the best places to go for a cup of coffee, we managed to identify shelves laden with artworks made of ceramics, textile, glass and other materials. We also noticed the waiter-assistants working there, who seemed especially determined to do their job. Shlomi explained that these were disabled people, and that the entire complex was built for them, in fact. The place also works as a community center providing workshops in various arts; a center where plays and lectures are held in the adjacent hall, and of course a café.
‘Ma’arag is a unique project that was initiated in Kfar Vradim’, he explains. ‘It is a center that enables the integration of disabled persons arriving here to participate in workshops in a variety of art fields. The feature that is most evident to the eye, is naturally the Gallery-Café, displaying the best Galilean delicacies alongside art pieces made here by the disabled and offered for sale’.
Ma’arag is a place where workshop for groups dealing with the world of employment of the disabled can be held, as well as a Coffee House welcoming individuals and groups.