When I was asked to write this article, I found myself looking at my environment, asking myself the question “what’s going on with homeopathy in Israel” from a purely subjective point of view.
As a practicing homeopath and private teacher of homeopathy, I have experienced the following:
- I have found the general public is pretty open to homeopathy on the whole. People are looking for solutions and are becoming more and more aware of the problematic issues in conventional medicine. They are questioning more, and as a result the responsiveness to the recent swine flu vaccination program was generally quite low.
- Homeopathy is available through most of the health funds, although the level and quality of treatment differs widely from practitioner to practitioner. Most health funds will only employ MD’s who are homeopaths.
- Remedies are generally available, and there are no remedies that are “forbidden” here. There are some small or unusual remedies that are more difficult to obtain, and homeopaths order these from pharmacies abroad.
- Some practitioners announce that they are homeopaths, but have not gone through full homeopathic training. There is no law against this as yet.
- Although I’ve experienced some strong antipathy to my activities as a homeopath, mainly from conventional doctors sad to say, on the whole people are open to working with homeopathy if they feel it is working. Some medical doctors are more than willing to bring patients off antibiotics and chronic medications, and are happy to monitor and adjust prescriptions alongside homeopathic treatment. We haven’t experienced coordinated anti-homeopathy efforts such as those staged by skeptics in the US and in the UK.
- Although pressure within the school system is increasing to prescribe drugs such as Ritalin, often starting as young as kindergarten age, many parents are holding out against the pressure and looking for other options, including homeopathy, for treating behavioral and learning issues.
- The number of homeopathy students does seem to be going down, especially those who are interested in learning more about homeopathy without continuing to practitioner level. The global economic crisis has hit hard in Israel as well, and people are wary of training in a profession which may not bring sufficient income. In addition, many are less likely to register for enrichment programs for financial reasons.
At this point in my investigation I decided to approach the person who probably knows more than most about Classical Homeopathy in Israel in 2010 – Mr. Yanai Lev-Or, RCHom, Chairman of the Israeli Association for Classical Homeopathy.
In addition to his activities in Israel within the framework of the Association and as a practicing homeopath and teacher, Yanai is also Israel’s representative to the European Central Council for Homeopaths (ECCH). He is very active within the organization, serving as Coordinator of the Education Working Group and heading a project to revise the Guidelines for Homeopathic Education – a worldwide document that will set the standards for training of homeopathic practitioners worldwide. This project is being furthered and made possible through collaboration of homeopathy educators from all over the world and support of the International Council for Homeopathy (ICH).
Yanai confirmed many of my assumptions about the state of Homeopathy in Israel today, and added especially to my understanding of the history of regulation of Homeopathy in this country.
Yanai said that at present in Israel, anyone can practice homeopathy without fear of breaking the law. It is not considered practicing medicine without a license. The Israeli Association is the only body giving some form of recognition for titles and qualifications in Homeopathy. There is no official recognition at present.
The Israeli Association for Classical Homeopathy (IACH) has been in existence for 17 years. Most of the professional associations for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Israel were established in response to one of the first moves to regulate the whole area of CAM treatments – the Alon Committee of 1988.
After reviewing the situation at that time, the Alon Committee recommended that the first step should be for the CAM professions to enter into a process of self-regulation. In addition to the professional associations for individual treatment modalities, an umbrella association was set up with representatives from most of the CAM professions, to represent all practitioners in the field and to handle discussions with the governmental committees involved.
The Zaidise Committee was set up in 2005 to further the regulation process. However, the process has now run aground due to differences of opinion between the governmental, public and CAM bodies and forums involved. Most recently, the governmental committees were recommending that the three main modalities – Naturopathy, Chinese Medicine and Classical Homeopathy – should be required to develop BA or BSc programs in order for students to qualify as practitioners, similar to the requirements for the nursing profession in Israel.
This move met with opposition on two fronts: some of the representatives of the CAM modalities involved felt that imposing the mantle of academe with its rigid curriculum and requirements would harm the experiential and often intuitive spirit of complementary and alternative studies. However, a crushing blow to this initiative was dealt by the Council for Higher Education in Israel, which turned down the application of one of the homeopathy schools to be able to grant an academic degree based on its curriculum and qualification requirements, even though the Institute’s own subcommittees recommended that the application be approved. The Zaidise Committee could no longer promote a move which could not be implemented, and the issue was put on hold again.
As with the other professional associations, the IACH began the process of setting educational requirements, developing a code of ethics for the profession in Israel, determining requirements for registration with the IACH, screening candidates, and more. Because of its insistence on full training and clinical supervision, Yanai sees that the Israeli Association has raised the bar for Homeopathy training in Israel, and its guidelines have found implementation in smaller schools and institutions, as well as those recognized by the IACH.
Today Yanai assesses that there are around 400-600 homeopaths in Israel, most working on a part-time basis. It is difficult to determine exact numbers as there is no formal registration requirement. The Association itself has close to 250 registered members, and a further 50 are registered as Friends of the Association.
There are two main tracks to achieve recognition by the IACH. Those interested in becoming homeopaths can register for studies at a school recognized by the IACH. At present there are only two such schools in Israel: The Institute of Homeopathy, headed by Shmuel Shalev, and the Broshim School on the campus of Tel Aviv University, headed by Dr. Haim Rosenthal. Both schools offer four year courses including conventional medical studies and clinical supervision as required by the Association. A smaller school has applied for recognition, and is in its fourth year of oversight by the IACH.
On completion of all requirements, students studying at recognized schools can go into fast track for recognition by the Israeli Association, and usually do not have to sit for further examinations.
A second way to achieve recognition for homeopaths trained in non-recognized schools in Israel and abroad is for these homeopaths to apply to be assessed according to the Association’s APEL (Assessment of Prior Education and Learning) point system. In these cases homeopaths may be required to sit further examinations and present cases in order to be granted recognition by the Association. This allows for a great degree of flexibility in training. A person could decide on an individual path of studies, including private teachers.
Several smaller schools exist in Jerusalem and Haifa, and in other areas of the country, but they have not as yet been recognized by the IACH. In addition, there are several smaller groups for post-graduate studies which also offer supervision for beginning homeopaths.
According to Yanai’s assessment, there are currently close to 30 students studying first year homeopathy in the three main schools, and close to 120 students altogether in Israel. He confirmed my observation that the number of applicants to study homeopathy has been going down in recent years. Yanai believes this is mainly due to the ebb and flow of work possibilities in the field.
The Health Funds all employ homeopaths, but have never issued an official statement that all homeopaths be licensed medical doctors. However, this is required by most of the Health Funds. On the other hand, Yanai himself, who is not an MD, has been invited by at least one health fund to lecture on homeopathy as part of the required continuing education for its doctors.
Yanai said that most remedies are currently available in Israel, and there is no organized anti-homeopathy group stirring up trouble for homeopaths in Israel. In addition, although there are some strong voices in the regulatory camp calling for rules requiring all homeopaths to be medical doctors, this is far from being the prevailing approach in Israel.