Support systems

FIDF donates $24 million to Israel’s Sheba Medical Center to boost mental health care for vets

The gift will be used to significantly expand the hospital’s capacities as medical professionals prepare for a coming wave of PTSD diagnoses

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is donating $24 million to the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv to dramatically expand its mental health-care capacity as thousands of Israeli veterans, as well as civilians, are expected to need psychological assistance following the traumas of the Oct. 7 terror attacks, the ongoing war in Gaza and fighting along Israel’s northern border.

The donation represents one of the single largest contributions ever presented to the hospital. It comes amid rising concerns about the ability of the Israeli mental health-care system — which was already in poor shape before Oct. 7 — to cope with the impending wave of post-traumatic stress disorder and other related mental health issues related to the war.

“The current war has exposed significant deficiencies in mental health care within our system,” Dr. Amitai Ziv, director of Sheba’s rehabilitation hospital, said in a statement. “Recognizing this urgent need, we immediately understood the importance of expanding our professional reach and impact across the country in the regions that need it most.”

Ziv stressed the importance of acting quickly to prevent the current acute stress disorder (ASD) that many soldiers are experiencing from turning into chronic PTSD.

“We are at a critical point in time where therapeutically we have a window of opportunity of several months to effectively intervene in patients with ASD and prevent deterioration into chronic post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ziv said.

The donation from FIDF will allow Sheba Medical Center, which is based in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, to expand its mental health care capacity by 50%, according to the two organizations. Israel’s Defense Ministry is also supporting this effort, albeit with a smaller amount of funding, with FIDF providing $24 million toward the $27.45 million project.

“When hundreds of thousands of Israel’s courageous soldiers were called to service more than three months ago, we recognized the gravity of what they would face and the potential trauma they would endure, and therefore mobilized to find macro solutions across the nation for IDF soldiers and their families,” Steve Weil, the CEO of FIDF, said in a statement.

The funding will be used to establish mental health-care centers at existing facilities run by Beit HaLochem (literally, Warrior’s Home), a nonprofit that provides rehabilitation for injured IDF veterans. These facilities can be found in Haifa and Nahariya in the north; Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the center; and Beersheva in the south. 

The project will also include “staff training and deployment, equipment and technology, physical space, and research and innovation,” an FIDF spokesperson told eJP.

“In addition, Sheba will facilitate providing mental health treatment within other communities by way of treatment retreats and ambulatory treatment centers, as well as some expansion and renovation on the current Sheba campus,” he said.

While this partnership is specifically focused on treating soldiers with PTSD and other mental health-care issues, Sheba hospital said this funding will have a wider effect on the general population that is suffering from PTSD as more psychologists and therapists will be trained in trauma care.