The Israeli society is comprised of diverse cultures, religions and ethnic groups. The ultra-orthodox Jewish community possesses its own ideology and way of life that sets it apart from other surrounding cultures. This is reflected, for example, in the dress code that distinguishes its members from other groups. Another example is the perception that leisure is a waste of precious time. Members of the ultra-orthodox community spend most of their time in religious studies. The unique lifestyle of this community causes one of the biggest rifts between religious and secular communities in Israel.

My essay encompasses a six month documentary dedicated to an unusual man who lives in the heart of the Jewish orthodox community. Meir, 34 years old, is married to Nava (formerly Melanie) and father of six. Meir was born and raised as a secular child. The sea and breaking waves fascinated him at an early age. He started surfing at the age of 12 and at the age of 21, he went on a surfing trip around the world. In the Philippines, he met Melanie. It was love at first sight. When he was 22, and she turned 18, they got married. Upon their return to Israel, and after a slow process of several months, Meir started turning to Judaism. “Force majeure” is how he sees his return to religious faith. His wife Nava has chosen to follow the path in his footsteps as well.

Meir and Nava raise their children in Jerusalem. Meir maintains his passion for surfing along with his routine religious studies and family life. Whenever possible, he drives to his hometown, changes from his heavy black clothes into a wetsuit and surfs. Meir says, “Ever since I became ‘Baal Teshuva’ (newly religious), my surfing has greatly improved. It has become better than ever. Surfing in the open sea sharpens my thoughts, calms me down and improves my coordination.” He is an uncommon creature both in his religious study group and with his surfing mates. Nevertheless, both groups accept him with love.

For more details or questions about Gai’s documentary, shoot him an email at: GaiShtienberg@yahoo.com.


  • Bert Bertrand

    “Meir started turning to Judaism. “Force majeure” is how he sees his
    return to religious faith. His wife Nava has chosen to follow the path
    in his footsteps as well.
    Meir and Nava raise their children in Jerusalem. Meir maintains his
    passion for surfing along with his routine religious studies and family
    life. Whenever possible, he drives to his hometown, changes from his
    heavy black clothes into a wetsuit and surfs”

    Great! And what bout Nava? Is she still surfing as well?

    • Alexandre Nobrusco

      Probably She can’t surf or anything.. She is jewish now..

    • Sharon

      With 6 children, I doubt she has much time to surf, Bert… But giving
      up one recreational passion for the passion of motherhood is not so bad,
      trust me. :-) In fact, I find that my children actually challenge me
      and introduce me to new recreational opportunities, with or without my
      husband’s involvement. And likewise, his athletic endeavors and
      passions may expose the children to new interests and recreational
      opportunities, as well, making family life richer and more full, not
      less (contrary to what others often assume about the lives of religiously-devout and/or family-centered folks).

      • Bert Bertrand

        As long as a a woman can choose her own fate, even after her marriage, I can’t see any problem there…And those six children could be with their father for a while, I mean, when mumy is surfing…
        Your answer is a bit a a sophism, you’re just moving the point from “prohibition to surf, to expose herself in swimsuit or even wetsuit, to have personal leisure” to “she has to keep her six children”!
        I have children too, but I do not consider it was my wife’s job to raise them or just to be with them.

        You clearly understood that wasn’t the point.

        But is it her choice not to surf anymore? And if her choice is to agree with a philosophy that considers women inferior to men, and bind to some precise tasks when others are strictly prohibited, I’d find it sad…for the least…

        And since surfing is an image of freedom, I won’t be able to appreciate the celebration of an an ennemy of freedom going to surf.

        • Adam Nash

          It doesn’t specifically say she was also a surfer when they met. They met when he went on a surfing tour around the world. He may have met her in a bar for all we know

          • Bert Bertrand

            Well, so I guess that as long as she does not surf, everything is all right, then…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742895388 Lorenza Pavesi

      exactly what I was thinking….

  • http://www.facebook.com/fillmorephotography Michael Chen

    So refreshing, great work.