As I prepared for my meeting with the owners of the MC2 restaurant in Moshav Bitan Aharon in Emek Hefer, I thought that I’d probably see a quaint building and enjoy a pleasant lunch. Little did I know that what awaited me was an eye-opening encounter with three partners that are like an octopus extending arms full of action and positive energy to their surroundings and beyond.
Ronit Levin, Liat Ishay and Michal Israelstam are friends who live in Kfar Vitkin, a nearby moshav. Fifteen years ago they opened a vegetarian restaurant, and eight years ago they relocated to Beit Harishonim, a building slated for preservation that was originally bought by Yehoshua Henkin, redeemer of land in the Jezreel Valley.
Beit Harishonim is situated on a hill in the heart of a nature reserve overlooking the sea and the green vista of Emek Hefer. The inspirational venue comprises several areas for guests. It includes an events hall, a gallery, a wooden house and the train carriage that brought Queen Elizabeth to Israel.
The area is perfect for hosting private parties, weddings, cultural evenings and corporate events.
The complex is like home for the trio, a wellspring from which their creative energies burst forth. The location is home to Simple Do, an organization founded by the three that aims to strengthen leadership among youth from distressed families.
In addition, they own the Soli Sola catering company; they founded the Art, Beauty and Love initiative, which promotes all aspects of knowledge and art to the public; and they publish a Hebrew magazine called She, which is sold throughout the country. Branching out into tourism, they developed A to Z, an event planning service for families from overseas that come to Israel to celebrate occasions, as well as offering organized tours for women and families to unique locations such as Tulum Mexico and the Moa Oasis in the Arava. And that’s not all.
“We’re one tree trunk with many branches; we’re an orchard for strolling in. The flowers bloom in response to the needs that arise,” says Ishay.
The three women come from different backgrounds and complement each other. Ishay represents inspiration. She’s an artist, workshop facilitator and personal coach. She taught philosophy of yoga at Wingate and is one of the founders of Azuz in the Negev. In the threesome, she is responsible for content and design.
Levin represents simplicity. A former teacher, she manages the complex and meets with clients.
Israelstam represents celebration. A step dancer and choreographer, dance teacher and artistic photographer, she is responsible for external relations, development and employees, while combining intuitive experience with action.
“I make sure things are developed, and Ronit makes sure I don’t fly too high,” she says.
It looks like you have a very clear concept that extends beyond hosting and feeding people.
Levin: The idea is to create an experience, a good time atmosphere and to bring out an element of added value. We cook simple food, we create connections between people, we make music and art accessible to the public, all with a sense of integrity. The idea is to take our love and share it with others so they can enjoy themselves. We just want to do, without slogans. The beauty of it is accommodating the experience to the person; it’s endless creativity. When I begin a meeting, I have no idea how it will end up.
Ishay: The dream of our new initiative is to grow from internal peace to global peace, bringing people some repose when they come home at the end of the day. We really care. For example, in publishing the magazine, the idea was to take things beyond time. Some things give me a feeling of comfort. These are things that connect to each other and give a person a feeling, and that feeling continues to resonate.
Israelstam: Every morning I wonder ‘Who are we going to meet today?’ Ishay: People are afraid of authentic love. But you have to be open, to do what you do best, and it works. If you listen to what is happening inside of you, you’ll succeed. In Buddhism there is a concept called Beginner’s Mind. When a small child learns to walk, he falls and gets up. We adults are afraid of falling, so we don’t try new things; we continue with the familiar. We all want to remain children, but being a child means to create, to dare, to laugh. If you’re willing to dare, the cosmos will join you, and things will happen that wouldn’t normally happen, and people call it success. It’s really fun.
My teacher of the Alexander method, Meir Amit, says, ‘Don’t let go and don’t hold on. Put it down.’ When you put something down, you don’t give up on it, you keep it in a sense. You take care and don’t worry about it. We’re used to holding on or letting go; we should practice putting it down. The moment we put things down, we create space for something we weren’t expecting.
What is the secret of your success? Levin: A great deal of responsibility, precision, ‘moving the drawers,’ i.e., be open, give respect, attention and endless love. The big secret of success is to listen. I learn from the clients themselves, which creates a reciprocal relationship.
Ishay: We don’t take things for granted. At the age of 26 I became sick with an auto-immune disease. At the time, they gave me three months to live. Since then I stopped counting, and soon I’ll be 50. I looked for solutions outside of conventional medicine. My mother became sick with cancer when I was six and passed away when I was young. Today I believe in spirituality, as well as combining conventional medicine with alternative medicine. But I believe that real spirituality is reflected in the practical world. Our visitors feel it. Aristotle rested under a tree, Archimedes rested in the bath, and through that rest they achieved deep insights. This also makes better businessmen. The intelligence echoes in length and width, creating a net.
What activities are you planning for the near future? Israelstam: Anna Halprin, a 92-year old dance master living in San Francisco, says that she would like people to remember that dance is the mother of the arts because you cultivate your vessel inside and out. She was stricken with cancer, recuperated and took it to the place of nature. In April she will come to Israel for five days of “Real Aviation” in Moa in the Arava to share her talents with us. It’s a real honor for us and for those participating in her workshop.
Levin: The second evening of our Collaboration series will be held on December 12. It includes a symposium from different worlds of content, free of charge. It will be a wild, happy, gentle and interesting meeting about man, environment, art and existence.
These three impressive women are a paradigm of action and true friendship realized in work and in life itself. They recently returned from a three-week trip to the US and Mexico, and they plan to travel to Japan in March to experience the cherry blossoms. The three leave a lasting impression of sincerity, honesty and an authentic ability to not only touch but also to do.