'He was a (Palestinian) Sk8er boi': Skateboarding comes to the West Bank

Published August 23rd, 2016 - 09:54 GMT

When you think of the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories, skateboarding is not what initially springs to mind. Stories of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, housing demolitions, child arrests and Israeli settlement expansion tend to dominate headlines from the occupied territory. But despite the pervasive presence of the Israeli occupation, daily life in Palestine continues and within this, a small group of skateboarders have begun to emerge in the West Bank. 
Nurturing this growth in skate culture is UK based charity Skatepal, who have recently built the West Bank’s third and largest skatepark in the small village of Asira al Shamilaya, outside the city of Nablus. Situated high up on the sloping hills and rocky terrain of Asira, the collection of ramps and rails has helped unite and build the skateboarding community, providing a powerful outlet for children searching for fun and a sense of freedom in Palestine.

 
View as a slider
View as a list
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

In October last year, Skatepal officially opened Asira’s first skatepark. The 700m2 park sits by the local school and children in the area were instantly eager to take up the new sport.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

Skatepal was founded in 2012 by Charlie Davis, from Edinburgh. The idea came to Charlie while he was working in the West Bank’s Ramallah, as an English teacher. When he would skate, the children were fascinated, asking how he made the board jump in the air. Since then, Skatepal has built two skateparks in the West Bank.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

Skateboarding is relatively new to Palestine and a few years ago most people in the West Bank didn’t even know what skateboarding was. However, small clusters of skateboarders have slowly emerged throughout the West Bank, developing with the help of Skatepal and other skating charities in the region.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

Abdullah Milhem is one of Palestine’s first skaters, a 16-year-old from Qalqilya in the West Bank. ““People here are slowly getting into skating,” he told Al Bawaba. “At the beginning, people didn’t believe in it, but with SkatePAL coming here and building skate parks, more people started to skate.”

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

Since the opening in Asira, Skatepal volunteers from around the world have been providing lessons to the local children. Most have naturally taken to the sport. “The kids here [in Palestine] don’t have as much fear as they do back home, so they pick it up quickly,” Charlie told Al Bawaba.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

On Fridays and Saturdays, the park in Asira is filled with boys and girls skateboarding. In particular, female volunteers have encouraged the girls to skate, helping to break away from the common belief that skateboarding is a ‘guys sport.’

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

The sport has quickly gained popularity among the kids in Asira, providing a chance for them to have fun and break away from daily life under Israeli occupation.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

17 year old Aram Sabaah, one of Palestines first skateboarders, told Al Bawaba: “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.”

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

For Abdullah, skating 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 told Al Bawaba.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

One of biggest challenges facing the skating community is the lack of access to skateboards. While there is a huge skateboarding scene in Israel, boards 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.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

By bringing boards into the West Bank and teaching the local children to skate, Skatepal’s aim is to eventually make skateboarding sustainable in the West Bank. “In a good few years Palestine should have its own skateboarding scene and we won’t need to be there,” says Charlie.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal

In the meantime, Palestinian and international skaters continue to collaborate in the West Bank, forming close friendships, skating together and passing their passion on to Palestine’s next skateboarder generation.

palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
In October last year, Skatepal officially opened Asira’s first skatepark. The 700m2 park sits by the local school and children in the area were instantly eager to take up the new sport.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
Skatepal was founded in 2012 by Charlie Davis, from Edinburgh. The idea came to Charlie while he was working in the West Bank’s Ramallah, as an English teacher. When he would skate, the children were fascinated, asking how he made the board jump in the air. Since then, Skatepal has built two skateparks in the West Bank.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
Skateboarding is relatively new to Palestine and a few years ago most people in the West Bank didn’t even know what skateboarding was. However, small clusters of skateboarders have slowly emerged throughout the West Bank, developing with the help of Skatepal and other skating charities in the region.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
Abdullah Milhem is one of Palestine’s first skaters, a 16-year-old from Qalqilya in the West Bank. ““People here are slowly getting into skating,” he told Al Bawaba. “At the beginning, people didn’t believe in it, but with SkatePAL coming here and building skate parks, more people started to skate.”
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
Since the opening in Asira, Skatepal volunteers from around the world have been providing lessons to the local children. Most have naturally taken to the sport. “The kids here [in Palestine] don’t have as much fear as they do back home, so they pick it up quickly,” Charlie told Al Bawaba.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
On Fridays and Saturdays, the park in Asira is filled with boys and girls skateboarding. In particular, female volunteers have encouraged the girls to skate, helping to break away from the common belief that skateboarding is a ‘guys sport.’
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
The sport has quickly gained popularity among the kids in Asira, providing a chance for them to have fun and break away from daily life under Israeli occupation.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
17 year old Aram Sabaah, one of Palestines first skateboarders, told Al Bawaba: “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.”
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
For Abdullah, skating 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 told Al Bawaba.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
One of biggest challenges facing the skating community is the lack of access to skateboards. While there is a huge skateboarding scene in Israel, boards 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.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
By bringing boards into the West Bank and teaching the local children to skate, Skatepal’s aim is to eventually make skateboarding sustainable in the West Bank. “In a good few years Palestine should have its own skateboarding scene and we won’t need to be there,” says Charlie.
palestine skating skatepark westbank skatepal
In the meantime, Palestinian and international skaters continue to collaborate in the West Bank, forming close friendships, skating together and passing their passion on to Palestine’s next skateboarder generation.