It’s known that if you bring people together with a common interest – music, food, or sport – everything else between them (tensions, family feuds, etc) evaporates and is secondary to the shared passion. I was lucky one day this past August to see such passion and peacemaking: there could have been sirens at any moment but Arabs and Jews were together to surf.
Read and believe what you want in the mainstream news. On the ground, and in the water Jews and Arabs can be and are friends.
If you’ve ever surfed, or happen to hang out with surfers, you’ll notice something extra special among them. Surfers listen to waves, they listen to the cycles of nature. They wait for them. And they have an uncanny interest in listening to each other.
So what happens when you bring four young Arab surfers from Jasr al Zarka, an Arab Israeli coastal town with great surf to Tel Aviv for the day to learn how to teach surfing? Lots of fun, laughs and hope for the future.
This story starts with an Israeli surfer girl.
A couple of months ago I wrote a story about Nitzan Solan, an Israeli surfer girl (and an amazing entrepreneur building an off-grid hydroponics food box) who even in the worst of times surfs with young Arab guys up the Israeli coast at Jisr al Zarka. They are her eyes and ears on the waves. When the surf’s up they give her a call and she comes running, sometimes barefoot, with surfboard in arms.
Jisr al Zarka is the only Arab Israeli town on the coast. The somewhat bedraggled and forgotten town, with its locals of about 12,000 people, is aiming to make something more out of this community, accessible only through a small tunnel off the highway.
The story I wrote connected Solan to Arthur Rashkovan, who co-founded Surfers4Peace between Israelis and Gazan surfers and who owns Doctor Surf in Tel Aviv, to the founders of the Jisr al Zarka Guest House and the young Arab surfers from the town.
Everyone got together a day in August to start training these young men on how to teach others to surf. If the program works out their skills will help invigorate the local tourism efforts in Zarka.
See the photos of some of the lessons in action.
Below are the guys from Zarka who came to learn how to teach surfing, with Juha Guest House co-founder Neta Hanien (far right). Her mother took most of these photos while Neta’s young daughter tagged along.
Below is Arthur Rashkovan, who co-founded Surfers4Peace between Israelis and Gazan surfers. He is at his surf shop in Tel Aviv Dr. Surf where he gives a quick lesson on how to start teaching surf to people who have never surfed before.
The guys from Zarka get rid of Tel Aviv’s salty sea water below.
Everyone takes a group shot at Arthur’s surf shop.
Nitzan Solan (far left) below.
An hommage to Arther and his vision of surfing for peace.
There are no female surfers in Zarka, but this Israeli girl below might help change that!
During the day I met relatives Achmad Juha, 32, co-founder of the Juha Guest House with Mohammed, 32, Hamush, 23, Jamil, 19, and Barak Jorban, 18, who’d come to learn about teaching the art, craft and sport of surfing with Solan, and all other Israelis who are passionate about surf and connecting with the “other”.
It turns out that Zarka has pretty good surf in its own right, probably much better than Tel Aviv. But that’s a secret some surfer’s who go to Zarka will want to keep.
All images (except for #3) courtesy of Neta Hanien/ Juha Guest House