When most people think of Palestine, skateboarding probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
Maybe it’s the magnificent holy sites, rolling fields of olive trees, and tasty falafel. Some may even mistakenly think it’s just too dangerous and that they shouldn’t risk visiting. I found myself visiting Palestine to teach kids how to skateboard and my experience couldn’t have been more positive.
Skateboarding has taken me all over the world and Palestine wasn’t even on my radar until Episode 2 of Post Radical.
This episode featured groups of skateboarders working hard to transcend religious and cultural boundaries in the Middle East through skateboarding. Immediately after watching that episode I sent an e-mail to Charlie at SkatePal to how I could get involved. After a few emails and an application, I was stoked to hear everything was a go. I’d be heading to Palestine to teach kids how to skateboard for two months.
My tickets were booked and my bag was packed but I still didn’t know exactly what to expect.
I knew I’d have to fly into Tel-Aviv and make my way through some checkpoints via a few bus rides. The essential info was given to me via the SkatePal information packet. Still I found myself wondering what everyday life would be like and how the Palestinian people would react to skateboarding.
After spending two months in Palestine, I can officially say I’ve never seen people anywhere get more excited about skating.
Everyone from little kids, grown men, girls, and even granddads wanted to jump on my skateboard. When stopped to skate something in the streets of Ramallah a crowd would almost always gather to cheer us on. People would film us, want to ride our boards, and tell us we were welcome in their country.
Palestinian people getting so excited about skateboarding makes perfect sense if you think about it.
More than half of all Palestinians living in the occupied territories are under 21 years old and lack cultural, educational and sporting opportunities. Skateboarding is possible anywhere and everywhere since all you need is some ground to roll around on and a skateboard. It’s inclusive and dissolves barriers between class, race, age or gender so everyone can skate together.
During my time there I even got to join a Friday session with the Jerusalem Skater Girls
Paola, one of the founders, is really doing awesome things with the JSG to
help to empower and develop the female skate scene in Israel. The Jerusalem skate park is amazing and the girls were ripping!
Skating around Palestine, I unsurprisingly did a lot of wall-rides.
We’d often see some cool mural and start doing wall-rides on it which would draw one of those crowds I mentioned earlier. I found it a bit ironic how often we got sidetracked to skate a wall. Walls in the sense of skateboarding were actually bringing us together.
So why should you visit Palestine?
Sure, there are tons of amazing tourist attractions, holy sites, and delicious food but you should go to meet the beautiful Palestinian people. I never felt in danger at all. Palestine greeted me with open arms, smiling faces, and more invites into people’s homes for food than I could attend. If I ever even had the slightest look of confusion on my face a Palestinian person would appear and offer to help. I never felt in danger at all, it seemed like everyone wanted to go above and beyond to make sure I had a great time in their county.
I can’t speak for everyone but visiting and teaching skateboarding in Palestine was inspirational for me. It got me excited about skating and made me feel like a kid again. In today’s world it was refreshing to see all these smiling faces saying, “welcome to my country” and then have them ask to ride my skateboard.