In parallel with my immersion in my scientific studies, I could not help but be moved by living in the west part of the ancient city of Jerusalem, at the nexus of three major spiritual traditions. I lived in a beautiful old house in the Coptic Church compound. One Christmas Eve, I was mysteriously drawn to my motorcycle and headed out into the still night. Randomly driving through the Judean Hills beneath the stars, I found myself… where else?… but, Bethlehem. Then, neither randomly nor consciously, for the first time I magically ‘met’ my future beloved wife, Jenji, as she was right there (15y.o.), also attending the Christmas Eve Mass with her family at Manger Square in… Bethlehem. We connected the dots on this miraculous and synchronistic chain of events about 20 years later when we ‘met again’ when she (again, non-randomly) was the ballet teacher of my daughter, Azzia, in Sonoma, CA.
A magical moment
Under stars that dotted the black sky above the Judean Hills,
I arrived in Bethlehem
At a Christmas Eve mass where
My beautiful and precious future wife stood
We were both together, the fates aligned
And our constant love for each other was magically set in motion
With my first marriage in 1981, I became a step-parent to my step-children, Suzannah and Jeremy. Soon after (1983), our daughter, Azzia, was born which marked one of my most profound inner shifts; my sense of self was expanded and, obviously, my sense of responsibility for my daughter’s and step-children’s growth and well-being.
I met my first wife in orientation to our doctorate program in psychology. We spent our honeymoon in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, where I learned wind-surfing. We also visited the lovely island of Isla Mujeres, fascinating ancient sites in Talum, touristic Cancun Island, and Cozumel.
In 1988, I was single again and moved to the beautiful town of Sonoma, CA where Azzia went to school and rode her horses. These were special years where Sam Keen, who had moved to Sonoma a year earlier, worked with me on men’s themes and peace and war issues. Even more special was that, at Azzia’s ‘insistence’ :-), I started dating her ballet teacher, Jennifer, and later, in 1992, I married her. We had two boys, Eitan, born in 1992, and Ilan, born in 1995, and are still married, all these 30+ years later.
Azzia, my first born (1983), besides her love of reading and ballet, enjoyed and became skillful in horseback riding and jumping. Later, she graduated from UC Berkeley in philosophy, became an excellent writer and editor, and has established herself in many ways, including as a Sensei, in an Aikido dojo in Berkeley, CA.
Supporting my children as they developed their unique identities, interests, and gifts has been one of my life’s greatest joys. I have had the fun of sharing the love of basketball, motorcycles and adventures with my two sons, Eitan and Ilan. Later in life, Eitan developed the love of swing dance and trapeze arts. Ilan, who I have had the chance to coach, has come to excel in his academic studies, his pursuit of justice causes, leadership, and basketball. But more about them later…
Spending time with my children in nature has been uniquely rewarding as it combines adventure, physical and emotional challenges, reliance on self and others, and, of course, connection and fun. In this picture, my boys and I are on a lovely ride in Annadel State Park. Engaging with my young children in fun, but at times also challenging, experiences not only created memoriable experiences but also enhanced our closeness and mutual respect.
Spending time on bicycles
Against a splash of blue sky
Serene scenes unfold of
Grasses and water
underneath soft pale clouds
Our trek together
Our closeness felt forever
In the stillness of nature
By ties of family, friendship and fun
In 2006 we celebrated the Bar-Mitzvah of our oldest son, Eitan, on top of the ancient and inspirational Jewish stronghold of Masada, followed by a ‘for men only’ rite of passage in the Negev Desert in Israel, where I had the dubious pleasure of jogging in 114° F heat.
A special ritual
Shared with my son
An ancient place swept by the sands of time
The sun hung high above the Negev Desert
Wrapping us in a blanket of heat
As my oldest son, Eitan turned 17, it was time for me to revisit the depths of the ocean and the boundaries of air and water – this time with my son. It was a true joy to introduce him to that glorious other world. We both earned our scuba certifications, and I had the thrill of diving once again into the serene, clear blue waters of the Red Sea in Israel. Eitan has seriously taken to scuba diving and continues to dive in San Diego, Catalina Island, Hawaii, and the Caribbean, among other places.
In 2009, the family moved west from the beautiful wine country town of Sonoma to the more rustic and interesting town of Sebastopol, also known as the “Berkeley of the North.” We were intrigued by the political sensibilities and the artistic and spiritual qualities of the town, which were a better fit for us than ‘perfect’ Sonoma. The move also eliminated the Sonoma to Santa Rosa commute for the boys who attended the Summerfield Waldorf School in Santa Rosa, not far away.
Life in Sebastopol has been quite wonderful. The culture, community, arts, and the politics have been a good match for us. The boys enjoyed their Waldorf school, although Eitan jumped ship to our local high school in his junior year. Ilan, however, continued at Summerfield, playing and starring on their basketball team for all 4 years. I had the honor to be the assistant coach for the basketball team during that period.
In the summer of 2011 my wife, Jennifer, all three children, and I embarked on a routine visit to Israel to my family’s kibbutz. It is a beautiful community, and home to my beloved sister and her family, which seems to give rise to new babies every year. My sister, Shlomit, is 4 years my senior and in contrast to my proclivity for adventure and mobility, she married her first love at 19 and has stayed in the kibbutz all her life as educator, writer, wife, mother, and now grandmother of 10 grandchildren.
The second part of the vacation was, as my children noted, about “old rocks.” On the return trip we visited Greece, visiting the Acropolis in Athens and remote palaces and caves on the island of Crete. Happily for them, Athens at night is as vibrant and full of young people as Tel-Aviv.
Ilan was 6 years old when he joined a local basketball league for young boys on a team that I led (kind of “coached”). The court was designed for young beginners and was only 42 ft. long. By comparison, standard college and NBA courts are 94 ft. long. One of the league’s rules was that teams were not allowed to defend the other team past half court. Young Ilan’s skills were unprecedented. He was able to shoot with high accuracy from the 21 ft. half court mark (a bit short of the modern 3-point line of 25 ft.). So, “according to plan” he shot the ball beyond the half court line where the opposing team was not allowed to defend or contest the shot, which led our team to endless victories and understandably infuriated both the parents of the opposing team and the league organizers 😋.
At age 15 ½ Eitan applied for a provisional drivers license in our state of California. This was the first step towards getting his license. His status was called “Provisional” which meant that he had to have an adult accompany him while he drove. Hearing about the endless arguments of friends with their children after they got the permit and constantly asked their parents to accompany them in driving around the clock, I decided to take a different tack. Eitan and I planned a trip from our home in Sonoma to Las Vegas to watch a fantastic circus show where he would drive the hundreds of miles, the WHOLE way to Las Vegas and back. The long trip was great driving experience for Eitan. A few days later, half way back home, Eitan, exhausted, stopped the car at the side of the road and announced that he had had enough driving. The plan worked out perfectly. For the next couple of years there were no arguments, begging or conflicts about driving. Eitan got it out of his system in the first week of his permit.
Ilan (16) excelled on his Summerfield Waldorf High School basketbal team, which won the local Small League Championship. At that year, Ilan was the 2nd top scoring junior in California. It was fun serving as an assistant coach, applying my knowledge of and passion for basketball and psychology to coaching, and seeing Ilan’s success in his senior year.
Eitan Zur (18) got himself a Kawasaki ZX-14 (1,400 CC), which barely fit in our garage but was fun to drive. I spent some of the summer of 2012 sharing the love of motorcycles and travel with him.
In July 2012, Azzia married her long time close friend, Nick Walker. Nick is the founder and senior instructor of Aikido Shusekai, an aikido dojo in Berkeley, CA, and has a 6th degree black belt in aikido. Nick holds a Ph.D. in Somatic Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies and is also an author of two online courses for the Zur Institute.
Azzia’s wedding provided a wonderful chance for me to enjoy my children and step-children. From left to right: Eitan (19), Azzia (28), myself, Jeremey (39), Suzannah (37) and Ilan (17).
I daily treasure and try to nourish my rich connections with my beloved wife, family, and friends. The interaction with my children is an ongoing delight, whether I am playing basketball with Ilan, biking and kayaking with Eitan, or writing with Azzia. Adventure, meditation, and community remain, as always, important to me and recently, I started writing short personal-philosophical essays for the public.
I’ve written much about my children and my special relationship with them. My pride in them is deep and strong and I will share, here, a bit more of who, what, and where they are: At age 22 (2015), Eitan is finishing his senior year at SDSU, and preparing to embark on his career as a firefighter, EMT, and paramedic. He transferred from his first career as an aerial circus instructor and performer to public service during his junior year of college, and has been enjoying working as both an EMT on an ambulance and a firefighter with his department ever since. When he is not working, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, sailing, surfing, scuba diving, hiking, and has recently set his sights on attaining his solo skydiving license.
Ilan completed his first basketball season at UC Santa Cruz in June/2014 playing for the UCSC Slugs, where he, as a freshman at 6’5″, started 11 games and played an average of 23 minutes per game, scored an average 7.7 points per game and pulled down an average 4.5 rebounds per game. In his sophomore year at UCSC, Ilan (19) got his first bike, a Ninja 250, so he can get around Santa Cruz. He joined his grandfather, brother, and his father as a motorcycle rider. In 2015, starting his junior year, he upgraded to a Kawasaki-Ninja 650. Alongside intense basketball practices and motorcycle fun, he also maintains a 3.8 GPA and takes a serious interest in issues of justice and fairness. His academic double major is in environmental studies & sociology.
A family vacation in the Summer of 2014 took us to the Big Island in Hawaii. The powerful lava fields, the vast ocean, and the exquisite diving sites were all a great background to a delightful family vacation. We did some hiking, snorkeling with sea turtles on coral reefs, scuba diving with manta rays, ate well, relaxed, and hung out, as we got know this exotic paradise.
Dogs have always been part of our family. Here is Ilan (19) basking with the joy of snuggling with our beloved Tasha, the German Shepherd, and Moshi, the Australian Sheperd.
In the last year or so, I have been starting my days with a peaceful walk with the dogs – always a part of our family – in the hills and apple orchards around our house. Beside the connection with the dogs and nature, this turns out to be an ideal time for reflection and contemplation.
Walking with dogs
among, apple orchards
And green hills covered in sunlight
The air sweet
The walks, a way to be present,
to enjoy Life at a slower pace
My eyes, observing the world around me
Slowly, and serenely
In his sophomore year at UCSC, Ilan (19) got his first bike, a Ninja 250, so he can get around Santa Cruz. He joined his grandfather, brother and his father as a motorcycle rider. In 2015, starting his junior year, he got himself a Kawasaki-Ninja 650. In 2018 Ilan started his 4 year challenging combined JD (law) and MA program in Public Policies in the prestige program in UCLA.
Sept. 20, 2014 – an historic day in the Zur Family as all three boys own their own bikes. The three of us celebrated by riding our motorcycles today on scenic Highway 1 along the Pacific coastline.
The dream of riding our motorcycles together
A reality now
Cruising along Highway 1
Catching glimpses of ocean and coastline
As smiles form on our faces
A sense of comradery, a joyous adventure
In April, 2015 (65 years old) I suffered my second heart attack. Similar to the first, my a-symptomatic presentation was puzzling. Way into my heart attack, my EKG and heart enzymes were still ‘normal’. This time I ended up with two more stents, for a total of 3.
We celebrated my seventy second birthday in May 2022 by gathering in our back yard and inviting people to share memories, stories, narratives, and anecdotes about me or to share a poem or song. About 25 people joined the hearty celebration, catered beautifully, by King Falafel and with celebratory, funny and, of course, embarrassing, stories and creatively funny original poems.