When Cheryl Halpern of Livingston went to a Jerusalem liquor store to buy a bottle of wine for a housewarming gift in 2015, the shopkeeper recommended Black Tulip. The red wine was produced at the Tulip Winery in the town of Kfar Tikva, or Village of Hope, a residential community for adults with special needs.
Upon hearing about the unique character of Kfar Tikva, Halpern decided to visit the town and the winery, which was established in 2003 to provide jobs and education for people with special needs, the very next day.
“When I met the owner and some of the people at the winery I was overwhelmed and humbled,” she told NJJN.
Halpern was so moved that she was inspired to produce a documentary, WishMakers, about the winery and its workers. It is the story of the special needs community that provides the winery’s workforce. Kfar Tikva, which was established in 1964 with five residents, now hosts more than 200, ranging from 20 to 81 years old.
Yitzhak Yitzchaki, the owner of the winery, bought the land in 2003 and decided to become a vintner after he visited a wine exhibition in Jaffa. He told Halpern he wanted to help the community by employing the people of Kfar Tikva.
Yitzchaki’s son, Ro’i, is in charge of the winery, and told Halpern that he is motivated by love for the land, modesty, forthrightness, and of course, helping people perform to the extent of their abilities. Referencing the words of Maimonides, he said, “The highest value to achieve is the ability is to help another person acquire self-worth. This is what I believe we do for the people of Kfar Tikva. We help them to gain honor and self-esteem.”
Said David Bar Ilan, one of the winemakers, “All of the winemaking is involved with people with special needs, which means there is a lot of love coming into the process and it is felt in the wines.”
Faiz Helf, a winery supervisor of Arab descent whose family emigrated from Syria 120 years ago, told Halpern, “The people here give you a good feeling. They always have happiness on their faces,” Helf said. “I wish the whole world would see there are so many people with good hearts. We are all like one family.”
In an effort to impact a broader community, the people of Kfar Tikva decided to donate the profits from a line of wine called Wish Maker to Make-A-Wish Israel, which fulfills the dreams of children who have life-threatening illnesses.
“The best thing for us [is] partners like Tulip Winery that really, really understand what it is that we do,” said Neta Mainz, the foundation’s marketing director, in the documentary. “They don’t want to just hand over a check. They want to be part of the wish.”
The first child whose dream was fulfilled by the Kfar Tikva community was a boy who had been hospitalized for two years with cancer.
Make-A-Wish Israel took him to Paris for a Bruno Mars concert. Then Neta Aricha, a 13-year-old girl with leukemia, asked for — and received — a house trailer so she could spend “quality time” traveling with her family. When she visited the winery Aricha said, “everything felt so warm, like a family.” Her face is pictured on the label of the Make a Wish wine, from the Wish Maker line.
“They told me one must be happy in order to be healthy,” Aricha told Halpern. “Happiness is really something that helps you get better.”
Ro’i said his experience with the winery has made him a more spiritual person.
“Not from a religious point of view, but from the karma of doing good things…I believe there is something truly selfless about this. Just getting a hug from someone makes it worth it,” he said. “When you do something good for others you do something very good for yourself.”
Now in the process of submitting WishMakers to film festivals and other screenings, Halpern has traveled to Bali, Capetown, and Jakarta to screen the documentary. In Jakarta WishMakers was recognized as the best film at the International Film Festival for Spirituality, Religion, and Visionary.
“The residents of Kfar Tikva and the Tulip Winery family serve as reminders that each of us has the ability to use our own talents to improve our communities and to do good deeds for others,” Halpern said as she accepted the award. “I am especially proud of the film’s reception in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. This story of coming together with compassion, caring, and dignity touched my heart.”