Getting Started in Jerusalem
Our program, Revadim, was established to bring the Commonweal model of supporting cancer patients to Israel. The original connection began with Odelia Levy Ettinger, a young Israeli women battling breast cancer. In her search for support, she heard about Commonweal and decided to participate. The experience of the workshop was so profound that Odelia was determined to try and create a workshop like it in Israel to help others suffering from cancer. Unfortunately, she was not able to bring this dream to fruition in her lifetime, and after her death, her husband Aviad Ettinger,decided to continue her dream and bring the workshop to Israel. He went to Commonweal and met Michael Lerner and Oren Slozberg, who were extremely generous with their time, knowledge, and willingness to help support our work in Israel. We were privileged to attend a CHP retreat to better understand how we could re-create something similar in Israel.
The retreat was inspiring, and during the meeting with Michael, the idea arose to begin our work in Israel by first opening “Healing Circles” to support women who are dealing with cancer and people who have suffered a loss related to cancer. Our first activity was the initiation of two healing circles in Jerusalem, one for women dealing with cancer and the other for those who have lost a family member to cancer.
In the past two years, we have successfully completed three healing circles. Each group was led by a psychologist and a yoga teacher. In the most recent circle for women coping with cancer, we decided to add half an hour of breathing and yoga. By intensifying silence and precision in breathing, the subsequent conversation became more introspective. There was no room for unnecessary talk.
In addition to the healing circles, we’ve held two retreats at the Sisters of Zion convent in Ein Karem on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The place is charming, and is a perfect location for retreat. The first workshop was two days long and the second was three days. A professional team has coalesced, consisting of experts in their field who have been engaged in oncological support for years. The staff consists of a psychologist, a yoga teacher, a massage therapist, a nutritionist, a cook, and a body image and sexuality consultant. In the first retreat, there were nine women and in the second, eight participated.
This May, we will hold our next retreat at the monastery. We are working to involve other organizations, such as health funds, in supporting our work. We are looking to them both for referrals of women who can benefit as well to receive financial support in order to reduce the costs, ensuring that all women, regardless of their socio-economic status, will be able to participate.
The founder of the organization, Aviad Ettinger, has been joined by Sagit Shiran and Shay Teitelbaum, the children of Dvora Teitelbaum, one of the founders of the Copaxone drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, who died of cancer. Their generosity has made this project possible. We chose to call our organization “Revadim,” which is the Hebrew translation of the word “layers.” This expresses our understanding that true healing has to touch the different layers of our being—from the physical body to the inner soul.
Initially, some were concerned that the Healing Circles model might not translate to Israeli culture but, in fact, no translation was needed, and we are convinced that they work here as well. We provide a safe ground for participants, and the group supports a wide range of emotions—from anger to fear, sorrow to gratitude.
An important thing we have learned is how valuable it is to have diversity in the groups. Different ages, different cancers, different worldviews and different losses. Having people who lost partners, parents and children in the same group helps the participants realize the ways their own loss is experienced by other members of their families in a way that is rarely talked about within the families. Participants in the retreat had different kinds of cancers and were at different stages of their treatment and of the advance of their illness. This encouraged group members to face their own fears as well as to support many different situations that were new for some and well-known. to others
We are just at the beginning, but believe in the program with all our hearts. We thank you for being part of this exciting circle of giving, and we wish ourselves many more years of cooperation.