The Rafael Social Incubator

The Rafael* Social Incubator

Local organizations understand the needs of their population. They often have innovative solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of their clients, but rarely have the resources, time and skills to put them into practice.

The Rafael Social Incubator gives local organizations in the Galilee the opportunity to work in partnership with us to develop and pilot their ideas. The aim is to provide support and a setting where innovative ideas with a potential to influence health are nurtured until they become sustainable and rooted.

The first round of Rafael has successfully reached completion and the second is underway. The projects have included working with parents to improve young autistic children’s ability to communicate; a hiking and nutrition program to reduce obesity in individuals struggling with severe mental illness; empowerment and advocacy training for disabled Arab women to lobby for better health services and clowning training for the elderly. The organizations meet regularly at the Faculty, receive personalized academic consultation and support, and seed funding to pilot their ideas.  

Case study 1 –Clowning for the elderly by the elderly (new project)

Israel has been a pioneer in developing the profession of medical clowning and medical clowns are found in hospitals across the country. Rafael has taken the concept a step further. With our support a team of elderly people have been trained by the chief medical clown in Safed hospital to go out and clown in community settings.

The clowns are now working in homes for the elderly, kindergartens for children with special needs and Day Centers. We anticipate benefits for the clowns themselves as much as for their audiences.  

Case study 2 – Al Manal

Disabled women in the Arab community are amongst the most disadvantaged individuals in Israeli society. They have minimal educational opportunities and often remain in the parental home throughout their lives. Being unmarriageable, they receive little in the way of gynecological care.

Al Manal, an NGO in Sakhnin, drew together and trained a group of ten disabled women. Not only are they now actively advocating for better health care, they have changed their own lives. Close friendships have developed, and their self esteem has improved. One of the women has even been accepted for a social work course at Haifa University.

“before coming to Al Manal, all I did was sit at home…I only saw my family and I never went out anywhere. Now I feel like I have a life…We are normal people…”

“I think our meetings with the nurses at the clinic really opened up their eyes to some of our difficulties. They never considered our needs and the problems we face… Now they are aware and are better able to treat us…”

The strength of the Rafael approach is that solutions to health needs are generated at the grass roots and given the academic support to succeed. Extraordinary results are achieved as each project is fueled by the energy and enthusiasm that comes with ownership of an idea that is given the opportunity to blossom.

The ultimate aim is to develop a network of health promoting organizations with the Center for Population Health at the hub. In this way, vulnerable populations across the Galilee can be reached, and a constellation of health promoting activity fostered. Some ideas should prove of value beyond the local context and we propose to publish promising projects in the academic literature.


*Rafael (Arabic: إسرافيل‎, Isrāfīl) is one of the archangels in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to the Talmud he was sent to help Abraham recover following his circumcision. The root of the name in Hebrew means healing.