A song of ascents. Out of the depths I call You, Hashem.” Psalms 130:1 (The Israel Bible™)
The popular Land of Israel (LOI) network is holding its first Shabbat retreat at a special time and place intended to reinforce their message: The Jews have returned to Israel and it is time to inspire the world.
As its name implies, an integral aspect of the LOI message is conveyed in their connection to the land. Though Jerusalem is usually the center of prayer, Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel, co-founder of the Land of Israel Network, explained that the Dead Sea region is a particularly auspicious location for personal prayer and meditation.
“When David was facing off against Saul, it was right here in these mountains,” Rabbi Gimpel explained to Breaking Israel News. “It was in these hills that he composed many of the pslams that we use to open our hearts.”
LOI recently released a music video to emphasize the connection between that location and prayer, bringing to life the psalm that came from David’s mouth. The organization is currently building a farm in Nahal Arugot, in the Judean mountains overlooking the Dead Sea. The three-day Dead Sea retreat is intended as a prelude to future gatherings to be held at the farm just up the hill.
“We began the Land of Israel network to get the message out to the world. Any serious effort starts with prayer,” Rabbi Gimpel said.
Rabbi Ari Abramowitz, the co-founder of Land of Israel network, agreed that the location was chosen for its deep spiritual significance but he also noted material considerations that were equally important.
“I could give you deep spiritual reasons that are all true and valid,” Rabbi Abramowitz told Breaking Israel News. “Yes, the Dead Sea is significant in that its rejuvenation.”
Biblical scholars will recognize the Dead Sea coming back to life as one of the signposts that the Messiah has arrived. “
But it is also significant that there is a really nice hotel,” Rabbi Abramowitz said. “That is a different, but no less important, expression of the happiness that we bring in with the month of Adar. And how can we bring in the joy without our wives, who legitimize us and are the real sources of our wisdom?”
As Rabbi Abramowitz noted, the retreat will be held at the 5-star Royal Dead Sea Hotel & Resort from Thursday to Sunday, March 7-10, the first days of the Jewish month of Adar.
“Even though the hotel is very nice, it is also secluded and perfect for meditation,” Rabbi Abramowitz noted.
Unlike many spiritual gatherings that focus on singles who have the spare time to get away, the LOI retreat is focusing on the family experience so essential to the re-emergence of the Jewish people in their Biblical homeland.
“Single people have very real spiritual struggles but it is essentially different from those that married couples deal with,” Rabbi Abramowitz said. “Couples deal with spirituality in a more holistic manner. As families, we are working at living as Jews in the Jewish homeland, with Jewish Torah values in every aspect of our life. I think this is a struggle that a lot of the participants will relate to and want to discuss.”
The roster of the retreat reflects this, featuring the Land of Israel network hosts as well as their spouses.
The retreat will also feature Breaking Israel News publisher Rabbi Tuly and Abby Weisz.
“The Dead Sea is a tangible change in the environment that will automatically take you to a different spiritual place,” Rabbi Weisz told Breaking Israel News.
“The retreat is designed to be precisely that; taking people away from their everyday turmoil. The highlight of the retreat will, of course, be Shabbat, the day when we disconnect from our overly connected workweek.”
Also speaking and teaching at the retreat will be Rabbi Ari and Shaena Abramowitz, Rabbi Yishai and Malkah Fleisher, and Rabbi Jeremy and Tehila Gimpel.
As part of the family-oriented spirituality presented at the retreat, Malka Fleisher, a trained doula and news writer, will be speaking about Jewish spirituality in childbirth.
“The birth experience is a powerful opportunity to empower women,” Fleisher told Breaking Israel News. She will also be speaking about her transformation from a secular Jew in Texas to a religiously observant Jew living in Judea.
“This is an aspect that all of the LOI people share,” Fleisher said. “We are all olim (immigrants) and all live in Judea.”
Fleisher explained that “There will be singles and we will accommodate them but the focus of this retreat will be on the family Shabbat experience.”
Fleisher was enthusiastic about the babysitting service that will be part of the retreat.
“LOI will be bringing in staff specifically to work with the children and provide them with an experience no less transformative than what their parents will be experiencing,” Fleisher said. She also noted that the price was intended to appeal to families as well.
The special Shabbat Rosh Chodesh program will include uplifting prayers, dynamic lectures, meditations on the beach, inspiring Torah, a special women’s program, one-on-one meetings with the hosts, exciting hikes and excursions. There will also be live music and entertainment along with free use of the hotel facilities which include a full-service spa.
For more info and to register, visit the Land of Israel Retreat Website.