An Israeli of Moroccan descent from Ashdod, Eyal Karoutchi displays the disparate hallmarks of a budding Torah scholar and an aspiring Hindu guru. He sports a bushy black beard and a crocheted pink skullcap over an embroidered flowery Kashmiri shirt and pajama-like Indian cotton pants. Karoutchi who begins his emails with "Dear soul” and concludes them with "May you find divinity", was on a decade-long spiritual quest, which took him from Hinduism back to the threshold of Judaism. A certified yogi who studied under several Indian gurus, a self-professed expert in the tenets of sacred living based on the Vedic scriptures, and a therapist in the ancient alternative Ayurveda medicine, Karoutchi ran a secluded yoga retreat on a remote island in southern Thailand until last summer.
Alternating yoga with Jewish studies at Chabad, he also found time to indulge in his passion: jewelry design. He's an inspired artist. "Following my meditation, I'm tranquil enough to hold a single thought for minutes," he says. "I like to reflect on religious themes, or else rework natural shapes, say patterns on coconut tree bark. Butterflies taught me a lot about color coordination." Karoutchi's designs are as eclectic as his spiritual interests, or vice versa.
In 2006 Eyal joined the staff at Acsent, a year-round visitors' center, Jewish youth hostel, and religious retreat located in the most picturesque part of the old section of Safed. The program includes everything from hikes through a scenic, fruit-tree lined wadi (a dry riverbed) in the Galilee, to genuine Kabbalistic studies and meditation, and the Safed mystical Shabbat experience.