Religious Cultural Sensitivity in Israel: A Case Study of an Orthodox Jewish Family
The challenges of hospice care can scarcely be overstated, considering that the complexity of
managing the physical, psychosocial and spiritual issues of the patient and of the family may
The task becomes even greater when accommodating differences in culture and
religious beliefs. This study focuses on a case of bridging cultural gaps by
a 26-year-old medical student and his modern Orthodox Jewish family in Israel.
The patient was diagnosed with aggressive squamous cell carcinoma of t
he tongue two months before. The authors joined the family as part of his palliative
care team in January and accompanied them for 7 months until his death in July.
The case was not only medically and psychosocially complex, but religion
was an added factor which needed to be carefully managed.
The family identified as religiously observant Jews, while the hospice team,
although Jewish and familiar with the traditions, identified themselves as secular.
The palliative care team worked with the patient and family to provide
a course of treatment that was acceptable for both parties.
In an early conversation with the patient’s mother, she expressed her wonder: “How can God do
this to us?” and acted out her fury once the diagnosis was given.
As palliative care professionals, we are aware of cultural differences and
our need to tend to our patients and their family’s needs with consideration for their culture.
Koenig & Gates-Williams stated the importance of treating patients
as individual unique people in the context of their support systems.
This case study highlights the struggles of a hospice team that delivers services to
families throughout Israel – an ethnically and culturally diverse country in the Middle East.
Palliat Med Hosp Care Open J. 2017; SE(1): S28-S31. doi: 10.17140/ PMHCOJ-SE-1-107