Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hanging Ten in the Gaza Strip

Gaza Giving: Surfing for Peace with Dr. Dorian Paskowitz
Let me tell you something I bet you don’t know about Gaza: it is rumored to have some of the best beaches in the world.
While I wish we lived in a world where the only rivalry between the Palestinians and the Jews were who caught the biggest wave or had the best surfboard, that is far from the reality.
But let’s imagine.
What would the world be like if peace was based on making real improvements in the lives of regular people? Dorian and David Paskowitz provide a glimpse.
Founders of Surfers for Peace and both world class surfers in their own right, the father and son team read an article in the LA Times entitled “Gaza Surfers Find Freedom in the Sea” about how Palestinian surfers were facing shortages.
The solution? The Paskowitzes masterminded a plan to get 12 surfboards to Gaza through the famously secure Erez Crossing. They put together a team of supporters that included surfing legend Kelly Slater, pro-peace organization OneVoice, and Tel Aviv surfing activist Arthur Rashkovan, who convinced Israeli surfing companies to donate the boards. They then managed to garner the approval of the Israeli military to secure safe passage.
What motivated the Paskowitzes beyond their love of the wave? It is easy to believe that their own history played a role. Dr. Dorian Paskowitz learned to surf during the Depression, convincing his parents to move from Texas to California to be closer to the waves.
But Paskowitz is more than your average do gooder. He is credited with bringing surfing to Israel over 50 years ago:
“Paskowitz said he first arrived in Israel in 1956 during a war between Israel and Egypt. He tried to join the Israeli military but was turned down. So he surfed off the coast of Tel Aviv instead… and was mobbed by Israelis charmed by the strange sight of a man riding the waves standing upright on a board.”
Paskowitz’s vision doesn’t stop there. He foresees the new surfboards catalyzing a surfing empire in the Palestinian state.
“From a board comes a group of guys who ride. From the group comes a business, then an industry, then a fantastic amount of money. I’m talking about billions, all from one board.”
Upon transferring the boards to the Palestinian surfers, Paskowitz reported: “There were tears in their eyes.” And we know that passion promotes possibility, which is what peace is all about.
Let me also remind my readers that the LA Times article in question was published three weeks ago. That is a short time to promote such positive momentum. Take Dorian and David Paskowitz as your role models and think about practical changes you could make to improve the lives of ordinary people. Whose lives could you touch?
I have to wonder what would happen to the peace process if we handed it over to surfers. Of any group of people I could identify, they seem like a particularly reasonable bunch. All that time communing with the universe would surely pay dividends on the path for peace.
Learn More About the Paskowitz Family and Israeli Surfing Under the Cut
I will leave you with these quotes from the good doctor.
- “When I say my prayers in the morning, I stretch out my arms, like a person gathering in wheat, I grab all the sunshine and fresh air. I try to fill myself with good things. Everything I do is an effort to align myself with the great vitality of life.” (Source)
- “So when you ride a wave, you are tapping into something much bigger, something that is cosmic. It is like skiing down a mountain. Gravity takes hold, and the skier becomes part of that cosmic force. In surfing, the mountains move themselves.” (Source)
- “I talk to God personally. I don’t want to sound like a kook, but I get out on my surf board and sit alone atop the deep blue sea and look around and just give thanks for being part of God’s great world.” (Source)
- “I consider myself a religious man, but I have nothing to do with religion. I don’t go to a synagogue, but I pray every day, several times a day, in fact. I put on the tfillin, the phylacteries of the ancient Orthodox Jews, but I have no truck with that stuff.” (Source)
- “I was there [in Tel Aviv] during Operation Desert Storm and saw Scuds flying over. We took our gas masks, hung them on a tree and went surfing while those bombs were dropping.” (Source)
- “God will surf with the devil if the waves are good. When a surfer sees another surfer with a board, he can’t help but say something that brings them together.” (Source)
“I’m 86 years old. I can’t stand up very well, I have a piece of titanium in my hip. But I still love it,” he said. (Source)
“I always felt that we had enough. We had our surf boards and the fish in the sea. But even better, we had each other.” (Source)


Maya Norton said...

Dear Unperfected Jew,

Thanks for quoting this great story from my blog. It was one of the first posts I wrote as a new blogger and continues to be one of my favorites.

All the best,

Maya Norton

The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

Unperfected Jew said...

Thanks, I wish there was more press on things like this. I believe it is the media that would prefer that the jews and arabs were always fighting and hated each other rather than have positve news out of the region. How did you know that I used your story? U.J.

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