Photo Credit: Mia Tsaban, Spokesperson, Poriya Medical Center
Spiritual escort trainees at Poriya Medical Center

Students from all across Israel have begun this week a special training program which is the first project of its kind at the Poriya Medical Center in Tveria – to become spiritual guides for patients.

The “Mashiv Haruach” program (the name is a pun on the Hebrew word for both wind and spirit in the Amidah prayer), is being offered by the Boston, Mass. based Schwartz Center for Health and Spirit, and trains students for two years and includes 880 theoretical and practical hours. The Schwartz Association for Health and Spirit, founded by Eli Sharon, initiated the cooperation with the Tveria-based medical center.


Spiritual guidance provides a solution for both patients and their families, with reference to the spiritual world of a person without the agenda of any specific religion. At the end of the training, a student who has completed their duties can access the Accreditation Committee of the Spiritual Mentoring Association in Israel, which authorizes the candidate based on their file and a personal interview.

“We are there to support, facilitate, allow people to clarify things about themselves, the pain and suffering or loss they experience,” Explaind Hila Ashchar, the course’s facilitator and lead instructor. “We join people in all the crisis situations surrounding health, whether it’s a chronic illness, as dialysis patients—where our accompaniment is ongoing, or acute conditions of a dying patient, and we accompany patient and the family.”

The students arrive for a concentrated day of study, once a week, which takes place at the medical center. The school day is divided into a practical part that is conducted in close cooperation with the responsible nurses in the various departments, and in the second part of the day there are theoretical-experiential studies in the group.

“The studies are not frontal in the sense of lectures, but include a lot of self-observation, and assimilation of materials in a practical and experiential way,” Ashchar said.

Dr. Erez On, Director of the Pedah-Poriya Medical Center, noted at the opening session: “Our vision is a new and innovative breakthrough that is complementary to and supportive of the medical process, and our personal and family approach and great compassion characterize us at the Pediatric Medical Center. I am glad that thanks to the cooperation with you, we have succeeded in leading this pioneering process, which I am convinced will only be strengthened.”

Helen Malka Zeevi, Director of Nursing, added: “This is a subject I strongly believe in as an integral part of the treatment process. This is a new and added layer for treating the patient and their family.”