Israeli Soup to Heal the Soul

Why am I writing a recipe post when I usually write about therapy and mental health issues?

It’s because of my involvement with Soteria Israel, a new and innovative Jerusalem facility for treating psychosis and other mental health challenges.

Soteria Israel, Soteria House, Israel

“Soteria House”

The folks at Soteria Israel aren’t the only ones to recognize the connection between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind, but Tova, the “House Mother” at Soteria Israel takes the charge very seriously.

The food is vegetarian, and kosher, and served in a chilled out, coffee shop type atmosphere. (Soteria House staff members and residents are from every spectrum of religious and cultural background in Israel.) Every meal includes an assortment of dishes, but always includes: a variant of the Healthy Soup recipe, an amazing large salad, herbal tea, and fresh humus made from scratch – humus recipe provided by Professor Pesach Lichtenberg, former head of Hebrew U’s psychiatry dept., and psychiatrist and founder of Soteria Israel.

What is Soteria Israel?

The Soteria House model of psychiatric treatment was first introduced in the 70’s in California, and there are a number of Soteria Houses  all over the world. Let me tell you about it in their words, with my translation of their info flyer. (You can read about some of the research on the Soteria model here.)

Soteria Israel’s logo currently reads: סטריה ישראל: מתמודדים עם פסיכוזה – בקהילה Soteria Israel: overcoming psychosis – with community. It doesn’t translate well, because it can mean “in the community,” but it can also mean, “with community,” and that really is a reflection of their approach – using the community of the Soteria House as a means of healing, from the bio-psycho-social perspective.

I’ll try to translate/summarize the body of their flyer’s text:

Soteria realizes the vision of a treatment model that provides a warm, safe place for people experiencing a psychotic breakdown or unmanageable emotional states. The goal is to help our clients continue living their lives  to their fullest potential, without the need for hospitalization. Soteria’s model has a holistic approach – we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, and deserve to be treated with respect.

We are professionals from the field of mental health, people who’ve personally experienced mental health challenges, their relatives, and community members who have banded together to provide a warm, accepting environment place for people dealing with psychosis.

The Model: Residents live in a neighborhood home that creates an accepting, protective, safe and supportive environment where they can safely ride the wave of their crisis.

It’s an open house, with shared spaces, directed in a family atmosphere with an emphasis on warmth, attention, and empathy. During the course of the day, the residents participate in organized activities, such as group and individual therapy sessions, art, and exercise. The daily schedule is flexible, and adapted to the current abilities and desires of the resident. The House management – meal preparation and cleaning duties – are the shared responsibility of both residents and staff.

The professional staff serves as a bridge to the world within and without the house. Treatment is performed with full cooperation between residents and staff, including pharmaceutical treatment. Before any medication is taken, there is a conversation between resident and staff, and the resident has the choice whether or not to take medication.

Staff members include: Melavim (companions/assistants/counselors), a House Mother, Social Workers, the director/psychiatrist, and a network of psychologists and other mental health professionals.

Dr. Pesach and the staff are working with the health insurance programs in Israel to provide coverage for treatment at Soteria Israel, but for now the cost is covered by the resident and family, or private donors.

For more info, or for sponsoring opportunities, write to… they have a facebook page too: Soteria Israel Facebook Page.

I visited a friend of mine going through some tough times who was staying at Soteria Israel. In his words: “Soteria House saved my life.” I loved what I saw happening at the Soteria House, and I wanted to be a part, so I’ve been volunteering the past month or so. I’m not the only volunteer. The five volunteers in my group supervision meetings (led by Shimon Katz a social worker at the house) are diverse: a veteran social worker, university students, a man who has experienced psychosis, and I – and there is another whole group. This is in addition to professionals who give of themselves by teaching meditation workshops, helping find employment opportunities for residents leaving Soteria, and more. People want to be a part of a good thing.

Working at Soteria Israel is very rewarding. It’s an honor to take a small part in historic forward change in the mental health field. And the food is great! Tova tells how she still remembers how good she felt after eating her grandmother’s “Marak Bari/Healthy Soup,” and I’m sure part of that is the caring and love her grandmother put in, not just the ingredients. It’s also in Tova’s Healthy Soup! I can testify to feeling energetic and healthy after eating her soup.

Here’s the recipe I promised:

Tova’s Healthy Soup

The Recipe is flexible. “Put in how much you like, what you and your kids like,” Tova told me when I sat down at the table with her to take down her soup secrets.

So to make your “average size” pot of soup, roughly follow the recipe. Oh, and when I say tablespoon, I mean a fairly big soup spoon… that’s what Tova pointed to.


1 cup of grain: your choice of barley, wheat, etc..

1 cup of legume: your choice of lentils or beans (last time I made healthy soup, I used wheat and adzuki beans)

1 medium onion

4 big cloves of garlic (or how many you like)

Olive Oil (enough to fry the garlic and onion.. or to taste)

2-3 medium potatoes (or how many you like)

sweet potato

a carrot or two

fresh parsley to taste

fresh cilantro to taste (Tova said the kids aren’t always big on this, so a little at first)

Any other veggies to taste (Tova says: “Lots of vegetables is good.)

a tablespoon of ground pepper (this is a lot, and makes it spicy… I love it, it’s your call.)

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

1 tablespoon of turmeric

1 tablespoon of cinnamon (I forgot to put in the turmeric and cinnamon, and it was still amazing.)


  1. The grain and legume must soak for about 10 hours. Don’t skip this important step! Soteria night staff has this on their list of things to do: make sure the grain and legume is already soaking. Sorry you can’t make this on a whim, but all good things come to those with patience and foresight.
  2. Cut up the onion/s and garlic, the way you want.
  3. Heat up the oil and fry the onion and garlic.
  4. Drain the grain and legumes, and fry them a bit with the onion and garlic, to infuse them with the tasty olive oil/onion and garlic goodness.
  5. And a bit of water, and then add the rest of the vegetable ingredients, cut up as you like. Then top off the water close to the top.
  6. Bring everything to a boil, and then stir in your spices.
  7. Put the lid on, and simmer on low for about 45 minutes – until the hardest ingredient is soft. You want soft potatoes and beans… the legumes will cook pretty fast after being soaked.

That’s it! Enjoy! Serve with a salad, a couple of pieces of bread, and you’re all set for a healthy lunch! If I get permission, I’ll put up the recipe for the home made spelt bread one of the residents introduced to the Soteria Israel menu. He usually makes 4 loaves, and it disappears within the hour.


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