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.
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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.
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.
Baum, who until recently directed the Resilience Unit at The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, says talking about the war in the classroom is supremely important.
“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.”
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.”
Christian Orthodox nuns hold candles and flowers as they walk along the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem on Monday.
The nuns were commemorating the death and resurrection of the Virgin Mary by walking from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Tomb of Mary in Gethsemane.
This week’s photograph was taken by Yonatan Sindel, from Flash90.
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“My name is Hanoch and I play.”
That’s how Israeli artist Hanoch Piven begins a TEDx Talk explaining how playing with objects – especially food – led to his signature collage caricatures gracing the covers of TIME, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The London Times, Die WeltWoche, Haaretz and other major publications over the past two and a half decades.
“What did I learn from 20 years of playing with bananas? I learned that all artists play, because playfulness is a fertile ground for creativity,” says the amiable illustrator, who divides his time between Jaffa and Barcelona.
Piven also creates children’s books and TV shows, interactive exhibitions, mobile apps and advertising campaigns. His latest book, Let’s Make Faces, was published by Atheneum in 2013.
“Serendipity” may as well be Piven’s middle name. When TIME commissioned a portrait of the TV cartoon character Homer Simpson in 2002, his early efforts landed in the trash can. Looking more closely at that can, he realized it resembled Homer’s mouth. This was the result:
Piven says it’s important to allow yourself to fail. “Once you are there, the failures lead to success. Happy accidents are the greatest gift … but you need to train yourself to see them.”
Half illustrator, half standup comedian
Since 2003, Piven has been traveling to classrooms and boardrooms across the world, explaining his approach to creativity and communication. He’s led workshops for children in oncology wards, drug addicts in halfway houses and army veterans suffering from PTSD. Google for Education is one of his sponsors.
In cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Education, he is in the midst of a speaking tour reaching 1,000 Jewish, Muslim and Christian preschool teachers from north to south.
Piven is creative director of an online community of educators in Spain, and has lectured in art institutes in cities as diverse as Beijing, Pasadena, Toronto, Rome and Savannah. His workshops in inner-city schools such as Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogozin and Arts High in Newark, New Jersey, are enthusiastically received.
“I’m half illustrator, half standup comedian,” Piven jokes.
Born in Uruguay, where he drew childhood pictures of cows, steaks and horseback gauchos, he moved to Israel at age 11 and grew up in Ramat Gan. Though he was always sketching caricatures — first of teachers and later of army commanders — his artistic inclinations weren’t taken seriously.
“Nobody noticed I had talent worth developing,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “I gradually stopped drawing because I was not encouraged to become an artist, mainly because I was a good student. When I finally wanted to do something about it, and listen to my own voice, the technical aspects of my talent were not good enough.”
First published portrait: Dan Quayle
Indeed, Piven was rejected from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem at age 23, after his military service. Dogged by “a deep craving for meaning in my life,” he then applied successfully to New York’s School of Visual Arts.
“I have this inner courage-slash-irresponsible nature. At 24, to go to New York and study in a private school without money to pay for it was irresponsible, but I guess I felt like yihye b’seder [it will be fine], and it was.”
The other students were better at drawing, so Piven forged a new path. “Being blessed by hardship made me look outside, and I started doing collages.”
Only days after graduating in 1992, Piven presented his collage portraits at Newsweek, and was asked to design a cover portrait of presidential candidate Ross Perot.
That piece never got published, but soon afterward his illustration of Vice President Dan Quayle appeared in Entertainment Weekly, and the assignments began rolling in.
“Within the first year after graduation I was published in all the major publications,” Piven says. “In New York, there is an open door to new talent. Once they see something groundbreaking and different, they immediately finding a way of using it. New York was essential to my professional growth.”
Pushed out of the box
And yet, he continues, “If I would I have stayed in New York, I still would have been doing kind of the same thing. The American market is so niche-oriented, and there is so little cross-disciplinary activity, as opposed to what happens in Israel,” Piven says.
“When I came back to Israel, people started saying, ‘You do A, but it looks like something that could be Z. Can you do Z?’ I constantly get help diversifying and finding other applications for my work. That has been the greatness of coming back here and why I still love to work here.”
Piven is married to a New Yorker and has an English- and Spanish-speaking household. His son, now 20, is in college in the United States. His daughter, now 15, attends an international school in Barcelona.
Perhaps the Piven family’s situation helped inspire his 2012 crowd-sourced mural, “Family Matters,” installed at Beth Hatfutsot-Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. It’s made up of about 3,000 collage self-portraits done by visiting families in the style of Piven’s famous works.
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As global warming speeds up, the world is suffering an increasing number of extreme weather events, from severe storms to floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.
Prof Colin Price, head of Tel Aviv University’s department of geophysical, atmospheric and planetary science, has made it his lifetime’s work to warn people of future natural disaster and keep them safe.
Among many other activities, Price tracks lightning activity from around the globe in order to devise an early-warning system for flash floods.
Price came to TLV1 Radio to talk to ISRAEL21c reporter Viva Sarah Press about his groundbreaking weather-related research and to provide listeners with the lowdown on climate change.
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