The Whole Health Forum is taking the country by storm. Why? Because the food we eat can either help us or harm us, and we want to be on the benefiting side, right?
I spent Friday morning interviewing Sheldon and Ginat Rice, getting the inside story of the couple’s dream. That dream is about to manifest as a five and a half day residential health retreat in Even Sapir, Jerusalem from May 21-26, 2017.
YNM: What is the basic concept behind the Whole Health Forum?
Sheldon and Ginat Rice: Israel is known to be on the leading edge of biology, technology and innovation. What most people may not know is that Israel is also a world leader in holistic and natural health. There is tremendous interest and talent for obtaining and maintaining optimal health naturally. People want to find out what they can do to ensure their own and their family’s well-being. The Whole Health Forum provides answers to these questions in five and a half days of natural health presentations, lectures, workshops and cooking classes.
“Out of a population of eight million people, hundreds of thousands claim to be vegan, making Israel the world’s most vegan developed country.” (Collectively)
YNM: This is not a surprise! My husband turned vegan two weeks ago following his healer's recommendation, and along with him the rest of our family has become sort of vegetarian. What triggered the Whole Health Forum project?
Sheldon and Ginat: We’ve been macrobiotic guides and teachers for the past 35 years. For decades we’ve been traveling to Europe and our native US to teach at international health festivals. Each year we postpone our dream to create something similar here at home. Finally, the time has come–the Whole Health Forum's time is now.
YNM: Have you organized something on such a broad scale before, or is this an initiation by fire?
Sheldon and Ginat: Yes and no. Every year we organized a macrobiotic conference during the intermediary days of Sukkoth. We also run monthly dinner / lecture evenings in Jerusalem, and previously cooked and served lavish healthy dinners for up to 25 guests on a bi-weekly basis.
YNM: I remember being at one of those, held back in the 90s in Jerusalem.
Sheldon and Ginat: Last year was the first time we did anything on such a large scale. We had 70 to 80 people participating each day, and expect even a bigger turn out this time. It’s a nice challenge for our old age–Ginat is 65 and Sheldon is over 80.
YNM: And both of you look great! There is a sense of vibrancy in you both, as if you are very alive, if one can say that.
Sheldon and Ginat: (Laughs) We are what we eat! Indeed, people make similar remarks to us all the time.
YNM: How did the seed of the idea for the Whole Health Forum get off the ground?
Sheldon and Ginat: We began with the idea to create a two-day conference at a friend's home. We were astonished when almost 150 natural healers and practitioners responded to our appeal for speakers. After conducting individual interviews around the country, we chose 92 of the best holistic practitioners representing over 50 topics on health. This year, it’s been even smoother. We have 75 speakers on myriad topics of natural health and healing. The schedule is quite impressive.
YNM: Sounds great, what does the spectrum of choices include?
Ginat and Sheldon: Our goal is to bring the highest caliber of speakers to the Forum. This year we have on board five preeminent leaders in the field of macrobiotics. Christina Pirello — an Emmy award winning TV chef who healed herself from terminal leukemia in her 20s— is one of our keynote speakers via live stream. Other presenters include an expert on healing Crohn’s disease, a teacher of the Louise Hay method, Ayurveda, and other healing modalities. Israeli-born Meir Shneider will relate his story of learning to see after being born blind to deaf parents. The power of natural foods is amazing!
YNM: Indeed! These sound like inspiring stories. I’m curious–do you maintain Kashrut at all in the Forum?
Ginat and Sheldon: Kashrut is important, as we want our message to be accessible to all sectors of Israeli society. We know that kashrut l’mehadrin supervision can be prohibitively expensive, but we are not willing to compromise. Serendipitously, it turns out that one of our kitchen volunteers from Safed is a certified mashgiach, able to supervise all our food. Amazingly, he is also a whole food aficionado, familiar with our cooking methods and specific dishes. From top speaker to dishwasher, we have a dedicated staff.
YNM: It sounds like the team is in itself a synergistic community of whole food lovers. What do you envision for the Whole Health Forum?
Sheldon and Ginat: The wonderful energy and spirit of the people we have on board already ensures that this year’s event is something to experience! Health is a much talked about subject, yet taking one’s health into one’s own hands is still not something most people have the confidence to do. Preventive health care has to be the predominant health paradigm of the future! This Whole Health Forum gives us the opportunity to share knowledge, motivate and inspire each other, explore and experience alternative therapies and demonstrate how to better ourselves in all aspects of health!
YNM: I totally agree with you! Preventative health care is the paradigm of the future. You two are the teachers of this paradigm in the present by means of your work at the Forum, right?
Ginat and Sheldon: Yes, this is a synergistic gathering where we come together to learn from each other in a community of like-minded friends. We don’t even accept teachers who want to come, teach and leave. They have to be present for at least a full day in order to engender a collective energy. The Forum aspires to build friendship, support healing, and teach a life of wellbeing. It’s a relaxing, informative and enjoyable educational gathering in the beautiful hills surrounding Jerusalem for health-minded, English speakers in Israel.
YNM: Thank you dear Rices for this interview. By the way, were you born with this family name or did you pick it up yourselves?
Sheldon Rice: That was my grandfather’s invention, shortened from Rabinovitch when he immigrated to America. He paved the way for me–it couldn’t be more aligned and attuned than that! It’s why we call our website The Rice House www.TheRiceHouse.com Visit it to find out more about the Whole Health Forum, and join us there.
YNM: Sure will, thank you.
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