Malvina Goldfeld has traveled the world but loves living in seaside Jaffa.
Malvina Goldfeld, PayPal’s 32-year-old head of business development for Africa, lived one summer in a Japanese village. When she asked to join her host on a fishing trip, he warned that even men got seasick on the boat. “It’s not a good place for a woman,” he told her.
“Well, now he got me. I was going to go at any cost,” Goldfeld relates in a TEDxTelAvivWomen presentation last December. Refusing his offer of seasickness pills (“I’m not some wimpy college kid; I’m an Israeli woman!”), she spent seven hours at sea keeping her nausea in check through sheer willpower.
“The problem with letting people put you in a box because of your gender or your ethnic identity or any other category is that your behavior shifts to conform to their expectations,” says Goldfeld. “Don’t let anyone put you in a box and set your limits. Only you do that for yourself.”
Born in Moldova, she immigrated to Israel with her family on her eighth birthday. The gifted youngster from Ashdod was selected at age 13 to join the Israeli delegation to the Seeds of Peace summer camp in Maine for outstanding teens from conflict regions.
“Being with talented kids from across the Middle East, discussing big issues and what we can do about the future, gave me a taste of what I could do outside of Ashdod,” she tells ISRAEL21c. Today she serves on the Seeds of Peace global leadership council.
Goldfeld has a bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from Princeton, a master’s degree in business from Stanford, speaks five languages fluently and three passably, and spent time doing research and/or working in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Japan and Vietnam. Since June 2013, she’s been traveling extensively through sub-Saharan Africa in her role for PayPal.
“It’s super important to broaden your horizons and learn to see and understand other cultures and be empathetic to others’ points of view,” she says. “And it’s fun.”
During her last two years of high school, Goldfeld was one of 200 handpicked students from 80 countries at the United World College (UWC) campus in Vancouver, Canada.
“Our school was like a global village. I had always felt like an individual, maybe because of being an immigrant, but being one of three Israelis on campus helped develop my sense of individuality,” she says.
Goldfeld is a founder and adviser of the Eastern Mediterranean International School, which just opened in Kfar Hayarok, based on the UWC model. Students will focus on environmental and economic sustainability and entrepreneurship.
Goldfeld helped found a new international high school in Israel.
“We’ll initially have 60 kids, 40 percent of them Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian, and the rest from all around the world,” says Goldfeld, who came back to Israel after high school to serve in the communications unit of the Israeli air force.
“I was always very connected to Israel, so I came back to do my military service like the rest of my friends,” she says. When she finished Princeton, she decided to come back to Israel and get a “real job.”
“After learning everything from Brazilian film to macroeconomics, I wasn’t sure what I could do. I can BS about anything; it’s one of my most important skills,” she says with a laugh.
Inroads in Africa
Goldfeld joined global management consulting company McKinsey as a business analyst for Israel and Europe. “That was an amazing way to build a career while being in Israel and not compromise,” she says. “The people there are talented and fun, and I ended up marrying one of them.”
She and Roy Hefer did not start dating until six years after she left McKinsey, and wed last May. In the intervening years, she went to Stanford, worked at a private equity firm in Vietnam and served as vice president of Battery Ventures, an Israeli early-stage venture capital fund for Israeli and European tech companies.
At PayPal (“my best job so far”), Goldfeld handles strategic partnerships with leading banks in Africa and is responsible for expanding PayPal’s business through sales and marketing.
“It’s like running a small startup out of PayPal,” she says. “Africa is still a fairly new market for us, and it’s wonderful to see the changes taking place on the continent in the past decade. There is a growing middle class and impressive penetration of technology, and it’s amazing to be part of that.”
When she mentors girls with leadership potential in Bat Yam through Kol Israel Haverim’s program Cracking the Glass Ceiling, Goldfeld encourages them to go into high-tech or other scientific fields.
“The goal is to be a personal role model and show them what a woman can do, which is often different from the models they see around them,” says the Jaffa resident and yoga enthusiast.
Her parents encourage all her activities but sometimes question her frequent travels.
“It would be missing out on life to stay in one place,” she explains. However, she adds, “It helped me to have this grounding and to know that Israel is my home, to know I haven’t lost my sense of identity and values.”
Thanks to Israeli TV news programs and the classes he gives in the United States, Yohai Israeli is gaining celebrity. But it’s not his name that he hopes to put in lights; rather it’s his unique approach to healing and personal development, The Gate (HaShaar, in Hebrew), that he prefers to put front and center.
“I don’t want to be a guru. I just want as many people as possible to use it on themselves, and if someone wants to be a practitioner, that’s great,” Israeli tells ISRAEL21c. “I will do anything I need to in order to bring this method to the world.”
Israeli maintains a private clinic in Tel Aviv and holds practitioner workshops in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Because his method involves no hands-on work, he also offers Skype sessions for clients abroad.
In a world where many people are seeking alternative approaches to physical and emotional healing, he is one of a few Israelis gaining international followers for their unique methodologies.
US-trained chiropractor Dr. Ora Golan treats clients at her Center for Functional Medicine at Kibbutz Nachsholim using her hands-on “emotional blocks elimination” technique. Rabbi Ben-Zion Bar-Ami of Rehovot gives Jewish Energy Healing workshops from Florida to California, and runs an alternative healing school in Israel. Dr. Roni Sapir is a recognized world authority on classic Chinese medicine, teaching Israeli and Chinese students and treating patients in several countries.
‘We are all alike’
Yohai Israeli’s method aims to root out causes of distress symptoms and subconscious blocks to fulfill a desired reality, without identifying them or talking about them.
He says the sessions bring out “the automatic feeling-thinking-response patterns that do not serve us, and while the patterns are active, systematic work is done to make their roots disappear. A constant and accurate body-mind feedback guides us until the process is complete.”
During a session, “every relevant force from the subconscious will surface, and then we systematically weaken those forces and eliminate them, and create new forces and patterns to support the process,” Israeli says.
‘A variety of meaningful thoughts, feelings, sensations, sights and insights will be experienced. It brings you to a state where you’re centered and have more life energy, connecting you to your creativity and giving you peace of mind.”
The method is the same whether addressing anxiety or subconscious blockages surrounding infertility, starting a new business, marital difficulties or anything else. Sometimes one session is enough, while some clients require a few sessions to “stop reacting and start acting,” as Israeli puts it.
The Gate draws on his studies and experiences over the course of 18 years. “I was lucky to be at a meeting place of several worlds that usually don’t meet — Mexican shamanism, Indian meditation, Western psychology and martial arts,” says Israeli, 44, who holds a master’s degree in organizational behavior sciences from Tel Aviv University.
“I’ve treated Christians, Muslims, Jews and even a Buddhist, I’m pretty sure, but I don’t ask anybody their religion. We are all alike no matter how different our opinions.”
The little psychologist
Kibbutz Ruhama in the Negev, where Israeli was born in 1969, is now well-known for the annual Red South Festival showcasing its anemone fields. As a secular kibbutz, Ruhama instilled an appreciation of hard work and skepticism of spirituality. “My family is very mathematical and I’m also a logical guy. I like to question and see for myself before I believe.”
But young Yohai, who voraciously read science fiction in the kibbutz library, was fascinated by the human mind.
“I was called ‘the psychologist’ when I was a kid because people interested me and I would try to help them,” he says. After high school he began meditating. At 24, he started studying spirituality and “hidden modalities” with a mentor, and in university he found his niche in social psychology.
“When I was 26, after several years of meditating two to four hours a day, I was sitting one day gazing at the aura of a plant and something happened that changed my life,” says Israeli.
“All my life was flashing before my eyes and I saw a connection between each event and how they brought me to the point of now. Then everything disappeared and I felt surrounded with infinite love. I knew I was not my body or my thoughts or possessions, and I was completely serene.”
“What happened there brought me to the understanding that there is too much fear in the world and there is nothing to be afraid of,” he continues. “Living like this is amazing and I wanted to tell this to others but I didn’t know how.”
Connecting body and emotions
He started developing The Gate when he was 37, along the way earning his master’s degree and learning a bit of kabala, reiki and shamanism to help his clients.
“I almost gave it up because it was too complex,” he recalls. “And then on Dec. 24, 2010, everything came together. It was a quarter to nine on a Friday and I had an ‘aha’ moment. All my clients that day received The Gate and it’s kept on evolving ever since but the core is the same and it’s simple to use.”
The name comes from his belief that the body is the gate to spiritual evolution, and that the physical and emotional system provides constant biofeedback one can be trained to recognize. “So many people in Western society are detached from their emotions,” he says, “so the first thing is to connect to your body and feelings.
“Then you reach a point I call ‘the opening,’ where a gate opens and you feel you’re floating out of your body. Some describe it as being in outer space or being touched by angels. There’s a tremendous flow of energy and you feel blissful. This is a crucial part of the healing process.”
Israeli is married to a marketing manager he met eight years ago at a workshop on shamanism. She is also a practitioner of modalities including The Gate. Israeli only agreed to give facilitator training in the New York area, upon request, when their daughter turned three earlier this year. He is planning his third American trip in October.
Thirteen-year-old Tal shopping for school supplies in Jerusalem on August 26, 2014. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90
The beginning of the school year is usually a time to bid summer vacation farewell and return reluctantly to a routine of early-morning alarm clocks, classroom learning and homework. This year in Israel, the idea of a daily routine is actually longed for.
“The bottom line is everyone welcomes routine; it gives us a sense of safety. No matter how much children say they hate school, kids are now saying they want to go to school and see friends and have normal lives,” school psychologist Naomi Baum tells ISRAEL21c.
The summer of 2014 did not serve up a relaxing vacation. The incessant Hamas rockets fired at Israeli communities from Gaza, the IDF’s heavy losses, the Code Red sirens sending more than half the country running for shelter, have taken a toll on Israeli children, parents and teachers.
“You can see they’re more nervous and sometimes it comes out in different forms of behavior. They say they’re scared and they ask questions. [The war] ruined the end of their school year and summer vacation,” Effie Moradian, a father of three children in Ashkelon, tells ISRAEL21c. “We had many plans for them. We were supposed to go on fun trips and everything was canceled. Day camp was paid for and canceled.”
It wasn’t until the end of last week that the Education Ministry, together with the Home Front Command and local authorities, agreed that school will begin on September 1 for all of the country’s pupils.
There are 2,105,394 students from first-grade through 12th grade registered for the school year. Of them, 149,705 will be greeted by the traditional Shalom Kita Alef (Welcome to First Grade) on Monday.
“Welcome to kindergarten” coloring sheets await preschoolers at Netiv Ha’asara, an Israeli moshav on the Gaza border that was bombarded with mortars all summer. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Talking it out
The Education Ministry announced that schools across the country will dedicate the first two weeks to discussing Operation Protective Edge, in the hope of addressing children’s emotional needs.
“This is current events. You can’t go back to school and not talk about it. As adults, we have to help children express their emotions,” she says.
“When you talk about this difficult thing that’s happened you always run the risk of re-traumatization. On the other hand, for most people who have experienced difficult events this is therapeutic, and allows them to put it into a story they can tell.”
She notes that almost every Israeli school has staff guidance counselors or psychologists or both. Teachers were invited to workshops and given reading material on how to approach the subject.
“The teachers know a lot of this stuff already but they have to be reminded that they’re our best mental-health allies; they see the kids every single day,” says Baum, who led some of the workshops. “There will be kids who are stressed out, but the majority of people are resilient in difficult situations.”
Maxine Tsvaigrach, an English teacher in Ramat Hasharon, tells ISRAEL21c: “My biggest worry is how I am going to deal with the war in the classroom. What are we going to talk about, what angle to take? Everything is so politically charged — no matter what you decide to talk about, you could be treading on very dangerous ground.”
Many Israeli children spent their summer in bomb shelters like this one in Kiryat Malachi. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90
Even before it was clear that school would resume on time, back-to-school sales of clothing, backpacks, lunchboxes and supplies took over the country’s shopping malls and advertisements. Newspapers, television shows and online news sites have run dozens of reports on how to buy the right stuff, where to get the best deals and what merchandise is most popular.
But it is still uncertain whether all parents will send their children even if school is open.
Most schools in areas hit by Hamas rockets during the summer have shelters and protected classrooms. However, parents and teachers are voicing concerns about their children’s journey to school because no one is sure the ceasefire will hold.
“It’s concerning that an alarm can go off at any moment, if you’re waiting for a bus or on a bus and not close to a safe place. It seems like a chance not worth taking. It’s unrealistic that people are presumed to do such a thing,” Jason Leib, a father of four from Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, tells ISRAEL21c.
Adds Moradian in Ashkelon: “I’m very stressed about school starting. The other day a rocket landed on a house and every day on that road on a normal morning there are kids on their way to school. Most classrooms are protected or they have a reasonable amount of time to get to protected areas, but what about on the way to school? It’s very scary.”
Yet the country’s students seem excited nonetheless to return to the classroom.
“I miss school,” says Rotem, a second-grader in Tel Aviv. “It’s fun to be with my friends.”
“It’s surreal that we’re going back to school and back to a routine. It’s a bit sad that summer vacation has already come to an end especially as we didn’t get to do anything that we had planned,” Ashkelon 12th-grader Yuval Saadon told Ynet. “I hope the year will go well and that it will be fun, and most importantly, quiet.”