JERUSALEM – 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,’ ” said Paskowitz.
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.
“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.