Spiritual Care in Israel: An Evaluation of the Programs Funded by the UJA-Federation of New York

In early 2006, the UJA Federation of New York launched a major new funding initiative for the development and provision of spiritual care services and training programs in Israel. Prior to this initiative, such programs in Israel were virtually non-existent and activity was limited and sporadic. This report provides an in-depth, systematic overview of the development over the last three years and the current status of the spiritual care programs, to explore their short- and long-term future directions and to identify current opportunities and challenges in order to better plan and promote spiritual care in Israel.

Spiritual care is about supporting people with serious illnesses and providing them with the space and time to address the existential and spiritual aspects of their life. This form of care, which focuses on the individual rather than the illness, helps people achieve moments of peacefulness and acceptance, by using poetry, narratives, traditional texts and music that relate to   the meaning of life; and providing them with the opportunity to express their fears, emotions and difficulties.

The study examined the types and extent of spiritual care training and service programs, the experiences of patients, family and staff and the attitudes of stakeholders and policymakers toward spiritual care. To this end, over 80 in-depth interviews and discussions were held with senior officials in government ministries, directors and leaders of training and service programs, hospitals and nursing institutions, graduates of the educational programs and patients and family members who have received spiritual care services. Senior executives of spiritual care and palliative organizations from Israel and the United States were also interviewed. The findings indicate that the training programs are very successful, but that they face challenges in implementation and in finding placements for the graduates. The findings also indicate the impressive development that took place in this field in recent years and the great appreciation for, and importance ascribed to, spiritual care and its unique contribution to patients.

The report serves as a basis for the continued development of spiritual care programs in Israel.  The findings of the study were presented to senior representatives of the UJA-Federation of New York and have served as a platform for extensive discussions on their continuing role in developing spiritual care in Israel In addition, the findings were presented to many forums in Israel, including senior officials in the Ministry of Health and key personnel in the palliative services.

The study was funded by the UJA Federation of New York.

Citations in the professional and academic literature

Bentur, N., Emanuel, L. L., & Cherney, N. (2012). Progress in palliative care in Israel: comparative mapping and next steps. Israel journal of health policy research1(1), 9.

Bentur, N., & Resnizky, S. (2010). Challenges and achievements in the development of spiritual-care training and implementation in Israel. Palliative Medicine24(8), 771-776.

Bentur, N., Resnitzky, S., & Sterne, A. (2010). Attitudes of stakeholders and policymakers in the healthcare system towards the provision of spiritual care in Israel. Health policy96(1), 13-19.

Zaidman, N. (2017). The incorporation of Spiritual Care into Israeli medical organizations. In Contemporary Alternative Spiritualities in Israel (pp. 83-94). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.