Surfing the Middle East


Major in political science. Graduate with honors. Fail to find a job. Go surfing in the Middle

Rogue journalist and self-admitted California wave junky Jesse Aizenstat couldn't find a real job after college. But his two passions, Middle East politics and surfing, seemed like a good fit for a freelance gig. What the hell? Why not surf from Israel to Lebanon?

His Jewish background may have earned him a free flight to Israel, but it wouldn't give him a pass to surf in Hezbollah-controlled South Lebanon. Even navigating the tangled towns and streets of his ancestral homeland wouldn't be a cakewalk. But then again, this dyslexic writer with a maddening lust for annoying truths wasn't looking for easy, he was looking for real.

From Day One, the signs of violent conflict are everywhere: rocket craters, barbed wire, tear-gassed protesters, gunfire, and night patrols. But finding a shoreline touched by the best swell in the Med proves a welcoming counterpoint to the tension. Trouble is, peace, like riding a perfect wave, never lasts long. Turns out you can't just surf from Israel to Lebanon. You gotta take an air/land route. Over an inland desert. Through freaking Syria.

Other than hatred, the same surf report, and the desire to blow each other to smithereens, Israel and Lebanon seem to share little else. Like Aizenstat, they are political, cultural, and generational misfits in search of control over their identities and destinies. The author calls 'em like he sees 'em, and goes along for the ride. It gets a little deviant, a little insane, a little frightening, but in the end is fully satisfying. You couldn't ask for a better ride.

Publication Date: 

Illuminating Letters: Paintings and Essays on the Kabbalah


?The Hebrew alphabet, especially when interpreted from a Kabbalistic perspective, is a richly woven tapestry of historic origins and esoteric meanings. These alphabetic letters hold mysterious, powerful, and transformative connections that remain constant, vital and forever within out being - waiting for release. Indeed, from a depth psychological perspective, the letters are transcendent forms that entail the visible, phenomenological, and spiritual universe. But from an experimental point of view, the letters must also be meaningfully and actively engaged to release their potential. Thus, it is through meditative personal interaction with each letter's valence that their universal, spiritual, and personal messages can be unveiled,absorbed and understood. The Hebrew alphabet, although comprised of twenty-two distinct forms, is as infinite in its effect as is one's capacity for imagining life. As an analogy, one might envision the letters to be portals through which one may pass into the levels of the infinite mystery for which the are prepared. This crossing of threshold, the absorption of the letter's valences, is a Kabbalistic process that contains an infinite mirroring of oneself into the other - a magical coming together of essence, presence, authenticity, and embrace - a path in life that embodies the transcendent function and the numinous dimensions that beckon to be engaged. As such, the twenty-two Hebrew letters are gifts from the gods, invocations to become transparent by opening up to the mystery, and thus re-imagining our lives. The essays in this book are the result of a shared interest in the esoteric Kabbalistic process, and are more specifically reflections on the twenty-two paintings and prayer poems of the Hebrew letters created by artist Elizabeth Fergus-Jean. In turn, these essays provide multiple entry points to engage the Kabbalistic processes through the voices of the individuals who have been deeply moved and informed by them.