Many, upon reaching middle-age, decide to make changes in their lives. Some are full of confidence that the changes are good and right. Others have self-doubts. Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel is among those who feel they can see the Hand of G-d guiding them in every decision they made.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he’s especially proud of his paternal grandfather who left Russia in 1916 at the age of fifteen and walked to what was then called Palestine. His trek took him a year and a half. Once settled in the Land he had the honor of planting eucalyptus trees around the Kineret and helping drain the swamps of Northern Israel.
Even though his English is excellent Jeremy considers himself more Israeli than American. It was probably a dream-come-true for him at age eleven when his family moved back to Israel and he had the privilege of making Aliyah.
His wife’s Aliyah story was the opposite. At age fourteen Tehilla began paying attention to the words she was reciting every morning and afternoon during the daily prayer at her day-school in Cleveland:
“And gather us from the four corners of the world to our Land…”
She told her parents she was moving to Israel and they decided to follow their daughter to the Holy Land, as well.
Hearing that story is what convinced Jeremy that Tehilla was the wife for him. They married and settled in Neve Daniel. Once a pioneering village, it’s now an established suburban community of Jerusalem. Jeremy worked at his media business and his family was blossoming.
Four years ago things changed. Always a mover and shaker in education, politics, and the media, the mayor of the Gush Etzion region (in Judea) approached Jeremy about finding help for Yossi Levitt and Roni Moshe, who were struggling to establish the Arugot Farm. Jeremy introduced the Israeli farmers to a Christian group that helps farmers in Samaria but nothing came of it. What did happen was that Jeremy fell in love with the place.
Located in the Judean desert he found the views breathtaking, intoxicating, incredible. Practically, though, there were problems. The water line was located in Maale Amos, three kilometers away. The farm needed 110,000 shekels to install water lines. It just so happened, in other words G-d had arranged it, that the Gimpels had almost the same amount in their savings account they had accrued with the hopes of buying a minivan for their 5th child.
It was a joint decision to use it for Arugot Farms. As Jeremy helped planting the olive, pomegranate, and fig trees he couldn’t help thinking about his grandfather planting the eucalyptus trees around the Kinneret a century earlier.
When he began his planting Jeremy was going through a bit of a spiritual crisis.
He wasn’t finding meaning praying inside the synagogue anymore. So he took his guitar in hand and headed out to nature. It was at the Arugot Farm that he was able to sing his praise and prayers to the Almighty. Somehow, though, it wasn’t enough to just visit the farm.
Two years later, right before Rosh Hashana, he found himself at an evening of meditation, Bible Study, and singing facilitated by Rabbi Daniel Cohen in preparation for the new year. At one point he was told, “This is the time of the year, before G-d created the world, that He made His plans. It’s the time for you to dream your dreams for the upcoming year.” Jeremy closed his eyes and could only picture himself atop the hill that was Arugot Farms.
“If we’re in tune with Divine Will then G-d will give us the dreams and allow us to fulfil them.”
It had been an amazing evening but more amazing was what happened when he told Tehilla about his dream. Excited, she ran to the storage space and rummaged and searched for the diary entry she’d written on her eighteenth birthday. It described a dream she’d had that day. She had a home on a mountain with animals, trees, and children running. People from all over the world were coming to volunteer, work the Land, and study the Bible.
She wrote, “I don’t know how I’ll get there, I’ll need a partner but I believe G-d has this planned for me.” His dream was the same as hers, but hers had laid dormant for almost twenty years.
Finding themselves on the same page, so to speak, G-d gave the Gimpels the strength to burn their bridges. As written in Pirchei Avot, Sayings of the Fathers, chapter 2, verse 4: “Rabbi Yehuda says, Make His will your will.” They sold their house in Neve Daniel and began building a home in the Arugot Farm.
It wasn’t without complications, though. Without an indoor toilet they were definitely out of their comfort zone. To make matters worse a donor reneged on her pledge and there was an outstanding debt to the contractor who was building not only their home but also important structures for the farm. He wanted, rightfully so, to be paid. An agreement was made in which the farm bartered sixty-five out of their seventy sheep as a payment. That bought them some time but not enough. They were seriously in debt.
And then Ari Abramowitz, the co-founder of The Land of Israel Network and a partner at the Farm, received an email from a woman he’d never met from Hong Kong stating she felt G-d was telling her to support to the Arugot Farm. She requested their bank information and transferred $250,000 to their account. She didn’t want to meet them. She didn’t want a plaque. She didn’t want to be thanked for covering their debt. She was just honored to help build the Land.
There have been more bumps on the road. Two NGOs funded by Europeans have tried suing Arugot Farms. The case is still pending but the Supreme Court has stated the farm’s land is on state land designated for agriculture and tourism, exactly what Arugot Farms is doing. There has been no order to halt the building, but there are lawyers’ fees to pay and time spent in court. Jeremy tries not to be bitter about the manipulation and waste.
He’s proud of the fact that Arugot Farms is home not only to the many fruit trees, but also to chickens, sheep, three vineyards and beautiful children. Visitors are encouraged to come take a day tour of the farm. Contact [email protected] for arrangements. Soon the retreat center for seminars, workshops, and weekend retreats will be completed.
Jeremy overcame his spiritual crisis with singing his prayers atop the Judean Mountains in the Arugot Farm only later to realize that in the Bible those mountains are referred to as the ‘Mountains of Zif’, the spot where David the shepherd once hid from King Saul. The spot where so many of the Psalms were composed.
Jeremy has taken those timeless words and put them to new melodies. His music can be downloaded at https://tickets.israelgives.org/tickets/JeremysNewAlbum. Along with the tunes is a book he wrote, “The Ancient Judean Way to Start Your Day.” Written in English, it’s full of insights and commentaries on the Psalms of King David and Biblical prayer.
Jeremy Gimpel is a true role model. Recently, he heard about the rescue mission of a Jewish mother from Sudan with her three small children, that A.Y. Katsof, the director of The Heart of Israel, was working on. A.Y. explained that we urgently needed the money for flights. Without hesitation and without even meeting A.Y., Jeremy sent his credit card information and said,
“The flights are on me.”
With his immense generosity, we were able to finally bring them home to Israel. Jeremy continues to change the world and fulfill ancient prophecies.
Jeremy and Tehilla are living their dream and are thrilled to share it with others. They believe they are the luckiest Jews in the history of the Jewish people, the generation of the Final Redemption, awaiting the Messiah in their Judean home.