Project Shalom

Nurturing Peace, Within and Without

Growing the web of healing.

We’re a group of physicians, therapists, & peer counselors committed to helping the people of Israel heal after October 7th, 2023. Our pilot project is focused specifically on supporting Israeli mental health providers, so they can better support fellow Israelis.

Risks of being a therapist in Israel

Burnout.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress or excessive workload.

Caring for a high volume of traumatized clients places Israeli providers at high risk of professional burnout. If these professionals stop practicing, it will leave many Israelis without care.

Secondary Trauma.

By repeatedly hearing about traumatic events, Israeli mental health professionals are at high risk for secondary trauma (also known as vicarious trauma).

The absorption of another’s trauma can cause intrusive thoughts, emotional numbness, anxiety, and issues with sleep and concentration.

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Occupational Hazards.

Exposure to violent clients, ethical dilemmas, administrative red tape, and legal challenges all pose risks to mental health providers. These risks are especially heightened during times of war.

Being a therapist in Israel requires resilience, cultural competence, and self-care.

Isolation.

Professionals are expected to be the pillars of strength for their clients, friends, family, and community. Expected to “hold” the pain of others, therapists often find that they are often under-supported themselves.

Therapists need space for healing, along with networks of peer support.

We provide Israelis with healing opportunities unavailable in the Middle East.

How we do it:

Our program creates the spaciousness needed for new perspective, connection, and growth.

Preparation

We take the time to get to know our program participants. We start with individual web sessions and then progress to group calls to help us build trust and co-create our trauma-informed container of healing.

This strong foundation allows us to come together in Mexico ready to begin the “deep dive” of the retreat.

The Medicine: Hikuri

The hikuri cactus (Lophophora williamsii) grows in the desert, where it withstands extreme temperatures, drought, and intense sunlight. It is the harsh conditions of the desert, in fact, that cause the cactus to produce medicine (mescaline).

Also known as peyote, hikuri has been used for healing purposes for at least 5,000 years, and it continues to be an important part of the culture and spiritual heritage of indigenous peoples of Mexico and the United States.

Nowadays, hikuri has gained the respect of modern medicine for its ability to heal trauma, promote emotional wellbeing, and connect humans to the Divine.

The hikuri ceremony happens in a group setting, allowing participants to regain trust in others and heal around a communal fire, under the stars.

The Temazcal

The traditional Mexican sweat lodge is called the Temazcal. Held within a womb-like hut, the temazcal ceremony connects us to nature and ancient Mexica traditions.

The heat from the volcanic stones in the temazcal promotes physical and spiritual well-being. Through breathing the aromatic steam of medicinal herbs, singing, and sweating, we experience purification and spiritual renewal.

The temazcal also gives us the gifts of community and shared rituals, fostering unity and connection.

Integration & Ongoing Support

While ceremony allows us to access and reconcile both information and emotions, it is during integration that we best organize the “data” and weave it into our lives.

Integration allows us to make sense and meaning out of our experiences, so that we don’t have to keep rushing back to substances for guidance.

Why plant medicine?

The last 30 years have seen an explosion of rigorous research into the field of psychedelic healing. These medicines have shown compelling outcomes in not only treating, but actually curing, conditions that afflict far too many Israelis: Depression, anxiety, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the co-morbidities and social handicaps that come with these conditions.

While there are many wonderful therapies offered in Eretz Yisrael, psychedelic medicine is sadly missing from the legally-accessible repertoire.

Why Mexico?

Whereas all enthogenic medicines are illegal in Israel, indigenous plant medicines like hikuri are legal in Mexico. Coming to Mexico allows Israelis to access life-saving therapies that they cannot safely or legally access at home.

The journey abroad also allows our guests to take a break from the heated emotional and political climate of their ancestral homeland. This distance engenders perspective and the spaciousness for deep healing.

Donate Today

Give the gift of healing

Your contribution

We would like to offer this program for free (or significantly discounted) to as many participants as possible, starting with 12 people in our first cohort.

Our staff of esteemed professionals have donated their time and expertise to the project, but we still have other expenses.

Your tax-deductible donation to our 501(c)3 charitable organization helps us purchase plane tickets and ground transportation for our participants and staff, rent a private retreat center, purchase food and hire cooks, and compensate the Marakame and his community.

Any monies remaining will go directly into our scholarship fund for the next retreat cohort.

 

Collaboration.

If you’d like to collaborate on this project, please drop us a line at: retreats [at] righttoheal [dot] com

Healers:

Your job is important & challenging.

Who holds space for you?

First cohort: Fall 2024

Retreat Schedule

Subject to change, to meet the unique needs of each group.

Preparation

Screening process

Prepataory 1:1 session (web)

Group call (web)

Retreat Day 1

Arrivals

Lunch

Crafts & jewelry-making workshop

Dinner

Opening ceremony

 

Retreat Day 2

Gentle movement

Breakfast

Group therapy

Ceremony Q&A

Lunch

Down time, naps, massages

Light dinner

Yoga

Hikuri ceremony all night

Retreat Day 3

Ceremony until sunrise

Breakfast

Down time, sleep

Lunch

Gentle movement

Temazcal ceremony

Dinner

Restorative yoga

 

Retreat Day 4

Gentle movement

Breakfast

Group integration

Lunch

Down time, massages

Dinner

Evening activity

Retreat Day 5

Gentle movement

Breakfast

Closing circle

Lunch

Departure

Aftercare

Integration group calls on Zoom 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What languages will be spoken in the program?

The program will be offered primarily in Hebrew.

We have carefully interviewed and selected Hebrew- and English-speaking professionals for the Project.

Right to Heal is an American organization operating in Mexico, with business operations in English and secondary dealings in Spanish. Fundraising and community education materials will be available in English and Spanish.

Our Marakame’s first language is Wixárika (also known as Huichol), the Uto-Aztecan language of his people. He also speaks Spanish as a second language.

Translation will be available to make all information available in English and Hebrew for our participants.

Can I come if I'm not Jewish or Israeli?

Our retreats are as diverse as is Israel. All are welcome to heal with us, provided they provide mental health services to Israelis and/or Palestinians, speak English or Hebrew, and can travel to Mexico for the retreat.

Please note that if the retreat falls on a Saturday that we will do light observance of the Jewish Sabbath by turning off the WiFi, asking everyone to keep their phones out of common areas, and inviting our guests (without expectation) to join us for a brief Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evening and havdalah on Saturday night.

The hikuri ceremony, will be conducted according to the customs of the Wixarika people.

While we cannot secure a certified kosher facility, we can accommodate “kosher style” diets by providing pescatarian meals (no meat other than eggs and fish).

Our compassion extends beyond the borders of Israel, and our hearts are with those in Gaza who are hungry and suffering. We invite nuances of perspective, and the internal and external struggles that we all face in light of what’s happening between the the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

We hope in the future to expand our offerings to reach more people in the region, in more languages.

Is there a program for 10/7 survivors?

The first phase of Project Shalom is focused on helping Israeli mental health professionals get the strength and stamina they need to continue the important work of helping fellow Israelis back home.

Stay tuned for more phases of Project Shalom, in which we plan to support ZAKA workers, physicians, and first responders; kibbutzim survivors; and Nova festival survivors.

Can I come if I'm not indigenous?

People of all skin colors and ethnic backgrounds are welcome at our ceremonies. The Marakame is happy to share this medicine “with my brothers and sisters of all cultures,” as he says.

Will everyone take hikuri and sit in the temazcal?

Everyone attending the ceremony will be served the medicine. How much you take is entirely up to you. You are welcome to take as much or as little as you like.

If you know that you do not want to take the medicine, then this retreat may not be the right choice for you at this time.

(That being said, if you have a last minute change of heart, nobody will bully you into taking a drug you don’t want to take!)

People of all skin colors and ethnic backgrounds are welcome at our ceremonies. The Marakame is happy to share this medicine “with my brothers and sisters of all cultures,” as he says.

Folks who have heat intolerance, claustrophobia, or other contraindication to the sweat lodge are of course welcome to sit outside of the temazcal during the ceremony.

Can I come if I'm on antidepressant medication?

The active chemical in peyote is mescaline. Anecdotally, we haven’t seen any harmful interactions between mescaline and most antidepressant drugs, although people who are taking Monoamine Oxidate Inhibitors (MAOis), anti-psychotics, or mood stabilizers should not consume peyote. Please consult your prescribing physician for guidance.

We recommend that people with heart conditions and other fragile states consult with their doctors before consuming peyote.

Are there any medical contraindications?

The active chemical in peyote is mescaline

We recommend that people with heart conditions and other fragile states consult with their doctors before consuming peyote.

People with the following conditions may not be good candidates for using mescaline:

Cardiovascular Issues: Mescaline can increase heart rate and blood pressure, making peyote particularly risky for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, hypertension, or a history of stroke.

Mental Health Disorders: People with schizophrenia, psychosis, severe anxiety, or bipolar disorder may experience exacerbated symptoms or adverse psychological reactions, including hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: The effects of mescaline on a developing fetus or nursing infant are not well understood. While indigenous women regularly consume hikuri, there are no clinical studies proving the safety of this practice.

Liver Conditions: Mescaline is metabolized in the liver, so individuals with liver disease or impaired liver function may experience heightened adverse effects or toxicity.

Medication Interactions: Peyote can interact with various medications. Talk with your prescribing doctor for details.

Seizure Disorders: Individuals with epilepsy or other seizure disorders may be at increased risk of seizures due to the psychoactive effects of mescaline.

How is the hikuri harvested?

The Marakame regularly goes on pilgrimmage to the Chihuahuan Desert to make offerings, plant seeds, and harvest medicine. When he cuts the hikuri cactus, he is careful to leave the root structure in place, so that the plant may regenerate.

He then dries and grinds the medicine into powder, and combines the powder with other batches he has harvested. This means the medicine we take during the retreat will include some cacti he harvested last year, 10 years ago, and everything inbetween.

What is Right to Heal?

Right to Heal (RTH) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to integrative mental health.

We provide people around the world with virtual sessions to help them reclaim their mental and physical health. We also mentor doctors and industry developers on what’s new in the field and what works.

RTH is proud to host plant medicine retreats throughout the year, including retreats that feature psilocybin-containing mushrooms and hikuri.

While the scope of RTH’s education, empowerment, and advocay work includes psychedelic medicines, RTH does not exclusively focus on psychedelics. Nutrition, functional medicine, environmental influences, and lifestyle practices are all at the center of RTH’s mission.

Join Us.

Join our contact list to be the first to hear when registration opens.

We Heal the Healers.

Because without them, the people can’t recover.

 

The choice to heal is always the right choice - and it's also your right.

Dr. Erica Zelfand, CEO of Right to Heal