A story so feel-good it hurts!
A few weeks ago, a new-ish El-Al 777 staffed by handsome Jews and Jewesses took me to Israel. There was a small WSL event and an old pal brought me over to, shit, I don’t really know. Drink the booze, steal precious wind-waves from the little kids, marvel, again, at the miracle of this brave little nation, surrounded by mortal enemies and yet held to a higher moral standard than any other country in the world?
Whatever it was, the trip confirmed by opinion. On the balance of my reading and observations, and with no Jewish heritage to colour my opinion, the nation of Israel, the most progressive in that haunted region of dictators and thugs and religious psychosis (compare Israel to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran for example), ain’t such a bad place. Maybe we should cut it a little slack.
Anyway, one of the surfers whose company I always enjoy is Arthur Rashkovan, a pro surfer and surf shop owner from Tel Aviv. He’s always doing his Surfing4Peace thing, giving boards and wetsuits to Palestinian surfers, taking the show on the road through Europe, joining Arab and Jew.
These guys here, their idea of surfing a wave isn’t being on a wave alone and doing beautiful manoeuvres… their idea of the perfect wave is riding a wave and holding someone’s hand on a surfboard next to them.”
It isn’t always a roaring success, of course. I mean, how does a young Arab man, who’s grown up under “Jewish occupation”, and who’s been indoctrinated about the evils of Jews since he was born, wipe that off? Arthur tries, though, and he cuts through little by little.
A recent BBC podcast on the Gaza Surf Club gives some insight into the world of the Gazan surfer. Gaza, of course, is that 42-click stretch of coast that became a Palestinian territory after Israel handed it back in 2005. Matthew Olson is an American whose group Explore Corps started the club in 2008.
His insight is worth examining.
“One of the most amazing things about surfing here in Gaza is the degree to which the surfers want to do it with everybody else,” says Olson. “Surfing in the west is inherently selfish. There’s a lot of etiquette for example: one person per wave. But these guys here, their idea of surfing a wave isn’t being on a wave alone and doing beautiful manoeuvres… their idea of the perfect wave is riding a wave and holding someone’s hand on a surfboard next to them.”
The podcast tells us of the day in 2007 when the late Doc Paskowitz got 14 boards into Gaza. A miracle given the dogma of the Islamists on one side and the security on the Israeli side. But Doc and his son David got ’em in, handed over the boards and, in the Hawaiian tradition, handed over their shirts to their Palestinian compadres.
The podcast quotes Doc.
“For an instant (he starts to cry)… for an instant… we solved that problem. Between the Jews and the Arabs. And it was beautiful… so beautiful to see that.”