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Healing and Suffering - Ein Karem Interfaith Encounter group on November 26th

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  • Yehuda Stolov
    In November, 2008, the Interfaith Encounter Association branch for healthcare professionals named HEFAPII (Health Equality for All People in Israel) met.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2009
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      In November, 2008, the Interfaith Encounter Association branch for healthcare professionals named HEFAPII (Health Equality for All People in Israel) met

           In November, 2008,   the Interfaith Encounter Association branch for healthcare professionals named HEFAPII (Health Equality for All People in Israel ) met. Miriam Feldmann Kaye, Program Director of the Three Faiths Forum Middle East (www.threefaithsforum.org.uk/ThreeFaithsForumMiddleEast) facilitated the meeting whose subject was "Healing and Suffering". The Three Faiths Forum Middle East prepared source material from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Texts specifically for this HEFAPII meeting. The meeting included members of all 3 faiths which led to in-depth discussions of all the texts.

           This meeting had the largest number of participants. We were happy to greet our guests, Dr. Sister Benedicta Arndt, a former visiting professor to the Hadassah School of Nursing, who was on a trip to Israel from her home country, Germany , and Yehuda Stolov who was able to attend the meeting. Also in attendance were 17 Hadassah nursing students who are studying in the cultural competence seminar and were invited to attend this meeting.  

           Healing and suffering are topics that are day to day issues for healthcare professionals so the topic was very relevant. Participants of each faith, read their religious texts which were distributed in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The 3 groups discussed the texts pertaining to their own faith.

           One of the Jewish texts was from the Old Testament in Numbers 12: 1-13: Miriam and Aaron spoke badly about their brother Moses regarding his wife. G-d spoke to Miriam and Aaron and was angry that they spoke against Moses; Miriam became afflicted with leprosy (tzara'at). Aaron told Moses that he and Miriam were foolish and sinned. Moses prayed to

      G-d and said "Please G-d heal her now".

           A discussion arose about why Miriam got leprosy as a punishment for speaking about her brother and his wife. One of the participants, Ruth Wexler who is the Nursing Director of the Israel Hansen's Disease Center explained that the leprosy mentioned in the Bible is not the same illness that is commonly called "leprosy" today. Ruth explained that the misnomer is given to Hansen's Disease –which, today, is treated with antibiotics and while both are called "leprosy" – we don't really know what the leprosy mentioned in the Bible really was.

           A discussion about Job who was afflicted with much suffering – as a test not as a punishment followed. A portion from the Talmud was read about the times when Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba and Rabbi Yochanan became ill and how each was able to be healed with the help of another person. This led to a discussion of whether healing comes from G-d or from a person. If a person goes to a doctor, for example, to be healed – does that diminish anything from G-d? Does the person need another person to help them? Can they get out of the suffering themselves? We, as healthcare professionals, need to remember that our patients may attribute their illness or suffering as a punishment to something that they did.

           A Christian view was expressed that a person has the ability to heal another person as the disciples did in the New Testament. Faith and belief are things that are not tangible. It is "a leap of faith" to believe that G-d can perform miracles and heal someone.

           In one of the passages read from Acts 14 v 8- 10, a man who never walked in his life and was crippled from birth listened to Paul preaching and the man "managed to catch his eye". The man had faith to be cured and Paul told him to get up and the man was able to get up and walk. Sister Dr. Benedicta said that when the New Testament says "managed to catch his eye" – there was a communication. Healing can't be done without communication – for many – we use words to communicate but with this passage – the communication was done with one's eye. Communication goes to a deeper level – it gives one the ability to heal oneself and pass on the faith.

           Passages from the Qur'an 30:54 and 40:67 were read about Allah –who creates a person – first as a weak beginning and then gives a person strength, afterward the person becomes weak again and has grey hair. A discussion followed that Allah knows how long a person will live. Another reading from the At-Tabarani says that Allah has created a treatment to every disease which may or may not be known by some people. The only thing that cannot be treated is death. After death, a person becomes alive again –not in this world but in the World to Come. This led to a discussion that seeking treatment is permitted in Islam.

            The religious texts give us a basis to understanding how people view healing and suffering. Why do illnesses occur? Are they a punishment from G-d? As our patients come from different faiths, it is important to understand their beliefs. For that reason, taking a cultural assessment is important – as it allows the healthcare professional to gain an insight to our patients' and their families' beliefs, customs and practices. It helps us understand why people seek different types of treatments. While the healthcare culture considers "medical" treatments as what should be done for healing, there are many treatments that our patients are seeking. Knowing what each faith believes concerning healing and suffering will also assist healthcare professionals to understand the treatments that they are seeking. This meeting served as a way to learn more about the topic.


      Anita Noble




      The Interfaith Encounter Association

      P.O.Box  3814 , Jerusalem 91037 , Israel

      Phone: +972-2-6510520

      Fax:     +972-2-6510557

      Website: www.interfaith-encounter.org



        Mr. Adnan Trabsha (Chair)

        Ms. Evelyne Savir

        Dr. Shlomo Alon

        Ms. Nadia Tutunji-Nuseibeh

        Ms. Saheer Siam

        Mr. Rizk Azam

        Sr. Karmela Farrugia, Observer


      Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director

      E-mail: yehuda@...


      Mr. Salah Alladin, Assistant Director



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