VIDEO: Palestine’s skateboarders defy gravity at new park
High on the sloping hills and rocky terrain of Nablus, children gather in anticipation, watching Palestine’s first generation of skateboarders weaving their boards along the ground, defying gravity as they launch themselves into the air in a series of flips and tricks.
The West Bank’s fifth and largest skate park was officially opened on 22 October, located in the small village of Asira al-Shamaliya outside the northern city of Nablus.
Built by UK-based skating charity SkatePAL, in collaboration with the Palestinian House of Friendship and the Asira al-Shamaliya council, the 700 square-metre concrete skate park has been embraced by the local community.
“Palestinian children are deprived of a lot of rights. This park will shape their minds and keep them off the streets and give this younger generation good reasons for hope,” said Mohammed Sawalhe, director of the Palestinian House of Friendship, a community organisation based in Nablus.
The new park signals an important step for the development of Palestine’s skateboarding community.
“People here are slowly getting into skating,” said Abdullah Milhem, a 16-year-old skater from Qalqilya in the West Bank.
“At first people didn’t believe in it, but with SkatePAL coming here and building skate parks like this one, more people started to skate.”
SkatePAL was founded in 2012 by Charlie Davis, a skateboarder from Edinburgh, at a time when skateboarding was almost unknown to Palestine.
While Israel has a well-established skateboard scene, skateboards and skate parks simply did not exist in the West Bank until a few years ago, when a small collective of young skateboarders began to emerge across the region.
SkatePAL has played a significant role in the growth of this community, with volunteers building skate parks and connecting Palestine’s dynamic group of young skateboarders.
Its volunteers are now holding skateboarding classes for boys and girls from the local school six days a week. After a winter hiatus, they will be back in spring to continue classes for the rest of the year with the hope of establishing a sustainable skateboarding culture in the region.
One of the primary challenges to this is the lack of access to skateboards, which are not made or sold in Palestine.
“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 who will skate a lot,” said Davis.
SkatePAL plans to start importing boards to Palestine, selling them at cost price so more children can have access to skating. In the meantime, they rely on skateboards donated by SkatePAL volunteers, taking turns between each other to play and practice.
Despite the challenges, skateboarding has continued to grow in popularity and many of the children in Asira al-Shamaliya have already expressed their love for the sport.
After the official ceremony and ribbon cutting, they are eager to practise on the new collection of ramps and rails. As the sun sets over the rolling hills of Nablus, the older skaters hand out their boards to the younger boys and girls, guiding Palestine’s next generation of skateboarders.