November 18, 2009 / 1 Kislev 5770
"Why not go to Israel?" asked Leslie Gurland after her yoga teacher mentioned that she was volunteering her healing arts skills in Ecuador.
"Because no one invited me," was the answer.
That was all Gurland needed to hear. A New Jersey resident with strong ties to Israel, she quickly got to work. After contacting her local United Jewish Communities of Metrowest New Jersey, the plan was hatched to bring yoga to Ofakim, MetroWest's Partnership 2000 city.
"The idea came from my heart," said Gurland, a Project Otzma alumni - a Jewish Agency program for young adults in Israel - who works for an Israeli company in the States.
Seniors in Ofakim practice seated yoga during a special week of intense
classes taught by visiting American teachers.
So it was that Gurland, accompanied by four yoga teachers from New Jersey, visited Ofakim from November 8 to 12 and turned the city into yoga central. "We reached 650 people in five days," said Gurland. Classes were offered from morning until the evening for everyone from small children and girls at-risk to the elderly.
"Yoga for seniors is more about strengthening and breathing and it's all done while seated in chairs," added Gurland.
Ofakim, a development town in Southern Israel, is the prime candidate for a few days of intense yoga.
"Yoga is not just physical. There is also meditation and chanting and this gives the residents of Ofakim something to keep with them when we leave - something to use when they're stressed and feeling pressure," said Gurland.