Surrender to Lama Dvora: Inside an Israeli Buddhist Community That Follows an Extreme Path to Enlightenment

Dvora Tzvieli, a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, has enthralled hundreds of believers. They compete for the privilege of serving her and are certain she will lead them to enlightenment. Members of the community describe their teacher as a being who suffuses love. But if everything is so good, why are things so bad for some?

The Moa Oasis Center in the Arava, which offers study, retreats, festivals and Kabbalat Shabbat events for the general public.
The Moa Oasis Center in the Arava, which offers study, retreats, festivals and Kabbalat Shabbat events for the general public. Credit: Emil Salman
Dani Bar On
Dani Bar On
Dani Bar On
Dani Bar On

Somewhere in the Arava desert, 36 kilometers northwest of Petra and a proverbial two fingers from Israel’s Highway 90, 30 people are sitting in silence. They started on January 8 and most of them will not speak for a year, until January 2022. This workshop of silence is thought to be the first of its kind in Israel. The participants are completely cut off from the outside world. They didn’t vote in the recent election (undoubtedly a blow to the center-left camp); they have no access to phones or email. They are also isolated from one another: Their primary communication is with themselves. For many hours each day, they look inward. These days, when the meditation becomes deeper, it also becomes more difficult.