The Blind Swimming Pool

The National Sports Center for the Blind is the site of an indoor swimming pool in Jerusalem

When we first moved to the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem, it seemed odd that there were so many blind people here. Almost every time I got on or off the bus near our apartment, a blind person or two did as well. Every day I saw several people with yellow lab guide dogs assisting them. I wondered why I had never noticed that Jerusalem had such a large blind population.

One day as I took the shortcut to the Central Bus Station, I looked at the building on the corner—Jerusalem National Sports and Education Center for the Blind. Kiryat Moshe does not have a particularly large blind population. Blind people from all over the city, and indeed from all over the country, come here to learn and participate in activities.

The center’s complex is large, and its facilities are available to the

How could I have missed it? Right under the number 2 are the words “swimming pool”

general public as well as its by its target population. The Sports Center Building features a 25 meter long swimming pool and a fully equipped gym. This being Jerusalem, both the pool and the gym have separate hours for men and women.

Recently, my doctor suggested I try swimming to get more exercise that would also benefit my back. The physical therapist said the same thing, adding that actual swimming wasn’t necessary. Just walking around in the pool would be helpful because it would relieve some of the stress of weight bearing from my back and hips.

The next day on my way to the bus station, I stopped in and picked up a swimming pool schedule.

All activities at the center are free for blind people. But, thank G-d, I can see, so when I went on Sunday morning, I bought a 10 session ticket for the pool. Its a round green plastic tag that can go on a key ring. The woman at the desk showed me where to touch it to the turnstile and I was in. I followed another woman down the stairs to the women’s locker room, changed my clothes and found the entrance to the pool area.

This locker room differs from other locker rooms I have used. Because most of the women there are religious, a wig stand or two sits on every window ledge, each one covered by a brown or grayish wig.

Conversations in the locker room are often punctuated by cries of “Mazal tov! Ken yirbu!” as women congratulate each other on the birth of a baby by wishing a happy grandmother, or great-grandmother, that her family will continue to increase.The week before Shavuot, a holiday on which most people eat dairy meals, many women were trading cheesecake recipes as they dressed.

The sports center underwent a year-long renovation recently, so the pool area is bright and open. It’s decorated with the usual signs: Deep Water, Shallow Water, No Jumping, Fast Lane. But it’s the first pool I’ve ever been to with a sign reading “Blind Lane Only!!” (During the morning public swimming hours, that sign is ignored.)

Swimming pool at the Blind Sports Center. On warm days the doors to the courtyard are left open. Photo from Center for the Blind website.

I swim the first laps slowly. I’m not a particularly fast swimmer, but I keep bumping into the swimmers in front of me. This occurs even in the fast lane–I have to stop at the each end of the pool to allow the old lady in front of me a decent head start.

“Old lady?” I laugh at myself. “Who’s calling whom an old lady?” My gray hair and wrinkles, not to mention my upcoming birthday, put me squarely in that category myself.

I have noticed, however, that around 8 AM the lap lanes start to clear. So now I arrive a little later, and by the time I have warmed up, I am able to swim nonstop. Over the course of four weeks, I have worked up to a half hour of nonstop swimming. Using a variety of strokes, I swim about a third of a mile several times a week.

The swimming has definitely decreased my hip pain and increased my ease of movement. It’s an exercise habit I want to cultivate

This video shows many of the sports activities the center sponsors. Some, like sailing and bicycle riding require the assistance of sighted volunteers.