Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Palestine‘s skateboard culture takes off with new Nablus skatepark


By Amy Mac - October 25, 2015
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [Nablus] [culture]

“I used to go to protests and  throw stones. But after I started skating, it became my life, I wasn’t going to do dangerous stuff. I could just get on my board and forget everything.”

Aram Sabbah, 17, is one of Palestine’s first skateboarders. When the IDF shot him at a protest last year, leaving a gaping hole in his knee, Sabbah resigned his stones and turned his attention solely to skateboarding.

Sabbah picked up his first board three years ago, when skateboarding was a complete unknown to Palestine. Since then, the skating community has steadily grown into a small collective of skaters scattered across the West Bank.

 

On Oct 22. this group arrived in Asira al Shamaliya, a small village outside of Nablus, for the opening of the West Bank’s fifth and largest skate park, a collection of ramps and rails situated high on a hill overlooking the gentle slopes and rocky terrain of Nablus.

Children from the local school excitedly stood by, watching Aram and his fellow skaters weaving their boards along the ramps, defying gravity as they launched themselves into the air in a series of flips and tricks.

“Before this park, no one even heard of skateboarding in Asira. So this is a big step for the skate community in Palestine,” said Abdullah  Milhem, 16, a skateboarder from Qalqilya.

Built by UK based skating charity SkatePAL in collaboration with the Palestinian House of Friendship & the Asira Al-Shamaliya council, the 700m2 concrete park has been welcomed by the small community.

 

“The idea is to give these children a chance to enjoy their life,” said Mohammed Sawalhe, director of the Palestinian House of Friendship, a community organisation based in Nablus.

“The Palestinian children are deprived of a lot of rights. The park will shape their minds and keep them away from the streets and give this younger generation good reasons for hope,” he added.

 

The new park is an exciting step forward for the developing community of Palestinian skaters, providing a central point for Palestinians to meet, skate, and escape from daily life under occupation.

“When to go to a skate park like this one, you are in your own world, you can do anything you want,” said Milhem.  

“There’s no occupation to restrict you, it’s just you, your skateboard and the skate park.”

The sense of freedom associated with skating perhaps explains why the sport has elicited such a positive response from local children, many of whom have already started skating.

SkatePAL volunteers are currently holding classes for boys and girls six days a week. After a winter hiatus, the volunteers will be back in spring to continue classes for the rest of the year, with the aim of sustaining skate culture in the West Bank.


So far, most of the children have naturally taken to the sport. “The kids here don’t have as much fear as they do back home, so they pick it up quickly,” said Charlie Davis from Edinburgh, founder of SkatePAL.

 

 

One of biggest challenges facing the skating community is the lack of access to skateboards, which are not made or sold in Palestine. Currently, the children rely on skateboards donated by SkatePAL volunteers, taking turns between each other to play and practise.


SkatePAL plans to start importing boards to Palestine, selling them at cost price so more Palestinian children can have access to skating.


“The main issue now is kids want to skate but there are no shops to sell them boards. Once we get the boards going there will be so many kids that will skate a lot,” said Davis.

For Milhem, teaching skating and encouraging the development of the skating community goes beyond the simple fun of the sport.


“Skating is like a form of peaceful resistance. You send a message to the world, we are humans, we enjoy our life, we just want to live,” he said.  

“And if you keep moving this idea to younger generations, they will make something good for Palestine and skateboarding will do something good for Palestine.”

 

 

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