Published on
the New York Times

Prescribing Surfboards for Peace

Isabel Kershner

JERUSALEM, Aug. 21 - The noted American surfer, Dr. Dorian Paskowitz, has high hopes for Gaza, and like the waves, he will not let anything stop him trying to see them through.
On Tuesday, Dr. Paskowitz, 86, a retired Jewish physician from Hawaii popularly known as Doc, personally delivered 15 new surfboards to Palestinian surfing enthusiasts there. 0822 02

He talked the Israeli authorities into opening up the fortresslike Erez crossing for that purpose, overcoming their repeated protestations about the volatile security situation, he said - even though hardly any nonessential goods have been allowed into the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over there in June.

"We used every wily wit that any Jew could muster," Dr. Paskowitz said, deliberately poking fun at an ethnic stereotype while speaking after the event by telephone from Tel Aviv. He was accompanied by his son David, 48, one of his nine children and a former surfing world champion.

The endeavor started with an article in The Los Angeles Times three weeks ago about a beach in Gaza called Al Deira. It featured a photograph of two Palestinian surfers with one old surfboard between them. "My son and I said, why don't we go over and help them get some boards," Dr. Paskowitz recalled.

The Paskowitzes started to pull strings. An Israeli benefactor from a sports gear chain put up a few thousand dollars to bring them over. The world's greatest surfing pro, Kelly Slater, gave his support. And Doc activated Arthur Rashkovan, the Israeli representative of Surfers for Peace, an organization founded by the Paskowitzes and Mr. Slater, an American of Syrian descent.

"Arthur is a grassroots Shimon Peres," Dr. Paskowitz said, referring to the 84-year-old president of Israel, an inveterate advocate of peace. "He knows how to get things done."

Mr. Rashkovan, who lives in Tel Aviv, first met Dr. Paskowitz 10 years ago at a surfing camp in California. He says he persuaded four Israeli surfing equipment companies to donate the boards.

Their passage through Erez was coordinated by the Israeli military administration there. OneVoice, an Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution organization, helped bring the Palestinians across to receive the boards.

Among the Palestinians were the two riders whose photograph Dr. Paskowitz had seen in the newspaper. "There were tears in their eyes," he said. His hope is that the new boards will inspire Gaza's surfers to start manufacturing their own. "From a board comes a group of guys who ride," he said. "From the group comes a business, then an industry, then a fantastic amount of money. I'm talking about billions, all from one board."


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That seems far-fetched for now. Since the militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza, the main commercial crossing has been closed and many local industries have collapsed.

One of the Palestinian surfers, Muhammad Jayab, described himself in the article Dr. Paskowitz had read as sympathetic to Hamas. That did not put Doc off. "To be able to go to your enemies and give them something that makes them happy is a most fulfilling adventure," he said.

His gesture could not tamp down the hostilities in Gaza, in which three Palestinian militants and two children were killed in Israeli strikes on Tuesday.

Three militants from the Islamic Jihad group were killed by Israeli ground forces Tuesday after they were spotted near the Gaza perimeter fence. An army spokesman said that sniper rifles had been found at the scene, and that the group had probably intended to carry out an attack. An Islamic Jihad spokesman said the three had been about to undertake "a jihad operation."

Later on Tuesday, ground forces fired at two young Palestinians who the army said had been spotted near a Qassam rocket launcher, in an area where rockets had recently been fired. Palestinian medical officials identified the two as 10-year-old and 12-year-old boys. According to Palestinian reports, they were killed by a tank shell.

Three rockets landed in Israel on Tuesday afternoon, one hitting an empty kindergarten in the border town of Sderot.

In a statement, Israeli Army officials said Palestinian militant organizations "have been known in the past to send children to retrieve Qassam rocket launchers and equipment" after rocket attacks. "It seems likely this was the case here," the statement said.

Separately, the European Commission announced that it would resume deliveries of fuel to the Gaza power plant on Wednesday, on a provisional basis, pending the results of an audit to ensure that the fuel aid does not end up benefiting Hamas. The European Union, the United States and Israel classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Many Gazans have been left without electricity in the past few days after European financing of the plant stopped. The Europeans suspected that Hamas was taxing the electricity generated at the plant.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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