tampabay.com

Surfing for peace in Gaza

An 86-year-old donates boards in hopes of creating good vibrations.

By Associted Press
Published August 22, 2007


JERUSALEM - An 86-year-old Jewish surfing guru from Hawaii is trying a novel approach to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians in 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.

"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."

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. He said eight-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, who is of Syrian descent, is expected to be 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.

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.

Also Tuesday

NEW FIGHTING: Israeli forces combating Palestinian militants in Gaza killed five people on Tuesday, two of them children ages 10 and 12, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Israeli troops killed a sixth Palestinian in the West Bank, and the army said he was an armed militant.

FUEL RETURNING: The European Union said Tuesday it will resume vital fuel aid to the Gaza Strip's electric company. The EU had suspended payments for the fuel that powers major Gaza electricity generators on Sunday, suspecting the strip's Hamas rulers were pocketing electricity revenues. Hamas denied it.