Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hawaii Surfer Donates Boards for Gazans

We can only hope to be half so cool when we are half so young:
An 86-year-old Jewish surfing guru from Hawaii is bringing good vibrations to the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Dorian Paskowitz, a retired doctor who has been surfing for 75 years, donated 12 surfboards to Gaza's small surfing community on Tuesday in a novel gesture to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians. "God will surf with the devil if the waves are good," Paskowitz said. "When a surfer sees another surfer with a board, he can't help but say something that brings them together."

Tanned and shirtless, Paskowitz emerged grinning at the Israel-Gaza border crossing after handing over the dozen boards to Palestinian surfers waiting on the other side.
He said he was inspired after reading a story about two Gaza surfers who could not enjoy the wild waves off the coastal strip because they had only one board to share between them. "So I said to my son 'come, we'll go to Israel and get them some boards,'" Paskowitz told AP Television News.

He described his mission as a "mitzvah," Hebrew for a "good deed." During his visit, Paskowitz said he wanted to "do something spectacular, like getting all the surfers and paddling around into the waters of Gaza." But those plans were scuttled because of security concerns.

Arthur Rashkovan, a 28-year-old surfer from Tel Aviv, said Paskowitz's project was part of a larger effort called "Surfing for Peace," aimed at bringing Middle Eastern surfers closer together. He said eight-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, who is of Syrian descent, is expected to arrive in Israel in October to take part in the drive. "We want Palestinians to enjoy the surfing experience. We believe it brings people together," Rashkovan said. "The idea is for people to forget about the violence and follow the journey to peace on the waves."

Paskowitz is venerated by Israeli surfers as the man who brought the sport to the Jewish state five decades ago. Rashkovan called him a "guru" to Israeli surfers.
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, he recounted, and was mobbed by Israelis charmed by the strange sight of a man riding the waves standing upright on a board.

The father of nine served in the Navy during World War II, practiced family medicine for more than half a century and has published books on surfing and health. He said he has surfed for 75 years all over the world, and he ranks the waves off the Israeli and Gaza coasts as among the world's best. "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.


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