Sunday BIZ: Skateboarding For Peace In The Middle East

Logo Design: Jeremy Wray

Words and photos: Jeremy Richards

The idea seems rather preposterous at first glance. What would happen if you took 30 skateboards and 30 helmets and brought them to kids in Israel and the Palestinian Territories? Michael Brooke, publisher of longboard skateboard magazine Concrete Wave came up with the idea of Longboarding for Peace to answer this question.

“I was initially inspired by Ollie Perkovitch and his work with Skateistan,” says Brooke. “That was my spark that started the whole idea rolling.” This led to the organizations concept of Search/Spark/Stoke, which Brooke breaks down with the following “recipe”:
1. Look for things you might find fulfilling (the search)
2. Find the spark – this ignites the passion
3. Spread this feeling everywhere – share the stoke
Repeat…until you are dead

Although the initial idea came from Brooke, it was a connection with his friend Abraham Paskowitz that got things rolling. Paskowitz is the sales manager of Carver Skateboards in California, and Brooke asked if he had any contacts in Israel. “The Paskowitz family are surfing royalty and have deep roots in Israel. I figured that Abraham must know someone.” Brooke’s hunch led him to Arthur Rashkovan who is one of Israel’s top surfers and heads up Surfing for Peace. The premise made total sense to Rashkovan. “We have made great gains in building ties between surfers across political and cultural borders in the past few years. Expanding our programming to include longboarding was a natural progression. We can include more people, and longboard when there are no waves.”

From here, Brooke contacted Matt Olsen, director of Explore Corps, a peace-building organization and the three started to get things rolling in February 2012. “I haven’t been to Israel since 1989” recalls Brooke. “I knew that I wanted to come to Israel and be more than just a tourist. I knew that longboards could be a vehicle for fun but I also had a gut feeling they could be tools of peace. I just didn’t realize how deeply emotional this whole experience would be.”

Surfing for Peace works with the Peres Center for Peace, based in Jaffa. Tami Hay-Sagiv, Director of the Peres Center Sports Department and Sivan Hendel, projects manager worked hard to ensure the demos all came together. “Tami and Sivan were incredibly supportive of this venture” says Brooke. “We are very proud to be working with such an amazing organization that strives to promote peace building via sport.”

Take a tour through Jaffa, Sderot, East Jerusalem’s Shuafat Refugee Camp, and Jericho with Longboarding For Peace:

All photos: Yair Hasidof

Follow the jump and take the journey: