Surfing the Blue Line between Israel and Hezbollah(Read article summary)
Surfers on both sides of UN-demarcated Blue Line between northern Israel and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon have a burning question: How are the waves on the other side?
â€˘ A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
Jesse Aizenstat says he is â€śsurfing a dĂ©tente â€“ one wave at a time.â€ť
â€śAs a surfer, youâ€™re always looking for new spots,â€ť says Mr. Aizenstat. â€śI noticed that there was a question that both surfers in Lebanon and Israel had: What kind of coast is on the other side of the Blue Line?â€ť
The Blue Line is the UN-demarcated line of Israelâ€™s 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Despite travel restrictions, Aizenstat was determined to hear stories from surfers on both sides of the line, uniting them through a common interest across their political, cultural, and geographical divides.
â€śIf I learned anything about coexistence, itâ€™s that everyone in the region, at one point or another, has lived together,â€ť says Aizenstat. â€śItâ€™s only been the last 60 to 70 years that weâ€™ve seen the demographics shift.â€ť
Traveling with his custom-crafted surfboard in tow, Aizenstat received his share of strange looks navigating through Israeli Defense Forces checkpoints in the West Bank and hitching rides through Hezbollah-controlled areas of southern Lebanon.
While Israel has a developed surf scene, in Lebanon the majority of the countryâ€™s surfboards reside on the walls of themed restaurants as decoration.
In the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Aizenstat met a close-knit group of Israeli surfers â€“ made up of both Arabs and Jews, some of whom have been friends since childhood â€“ leading him to view surfing as a potential medium for mediation and understanding in the region.
â€śMost of the Palestinians and Jews in Haifa donâ€™t mix,â€ť he says. "But through surfing, people are, at the very least, civil â€“ some even good friends, best friendsâ€ť bound by the sea.
[Editor's note: The original photo caption misidentified Imad Mughniyeh as Khaled Mashal.]