Gaza Surf Relief updates
July 7, 2010
From Field Director Matthew Olsen
We are making some progress on the boards, though it's unrelated to the flotilla and the recent "changes" to the siege. The news is reporting that the ban on consumer goods has been lifted but this is not accurate. The only main difference now is that the Israelis are offering a list of what is not allowed into Gaza, rather than offering a list of what is allowed in. Overall there won't be a huge difference in the kinds of goods entering Gaza and they still have to come under the umbrella of "humanitarian goods". Basically Israel will start letting in additional food goods, even though the goods are already available in Gaza, having come in through the tunnels. More food won't help in Gaza. What they need is construction materials and some kind of a political horizon to focus on. And surfboards, of course!
As for our application to bring the boards into Gaza, this time rather than simply saying "no" they told us to get permission from the Palestinian Authority first. This doesn't mean that once we get permission from the Palestinians, the Israelis will simply say ok. But it's a big improvement from the standard "no" response that we've received before. This change from them came a few weeks before the Flotilla and is most likely due to my contact in the Ministry of Defense hounding his people on my behalf.
I'm planning on flying to Tel Aviv early next week to start pressing the flesh to make sure that we can get the boards in this summer. I'll probably be there for about 5 or 6 weeks. Of course I'll extend if I think that the boards will be getting in.
July 2, 2010
Report from Project Director Seweryn Sztalkoper
We have a window of opportunity to finally get the boards in, just trying to raise some cash now for transportation in Israel. Any money that we receive is spent in Israel for transportation costs and to acquire new boards from Israeli surf shops, so I don't think that monetary donations would come under scrutiny. Matthew Olsen, my rep in Israel, also keeps track of where it is all spent.
Every time there is a New York Times article or something about surfing in Gaza, I do get renewed interest from donors but they tend to give up on their promises, but we still are at a standstill since last time, in that we are trying to get our boards in once the border opens up for more goods to pass through.
May 10, 2010
Report from Project Director Seweryn Sztalkoper
We have not yet received permits from the Israeli government to bring boards into Gaza—we have been waiting nearly three years now come July. We brought in a few boards by hand and "accidentally" left them there, but that only accounts for 6 of the nearly 30 boards ready to be delivered.
If you have specific questions, Matt Olsen, my field director, is available to answer them, as he is stationed in Israel and Gaza a few months out of the year. If you'd like to get in touch with him, feel free to let me know.
See a December 2009 report with photos by Matt Olsen:
March 5, 2008, Los Angeles
After several months of legwork and fundraising (including receipt of many boards as in-kind donations), Sev has wrapped all the boards in Los Angeles and they are going out by ocean freighter today, finally on their way to the Middle East! DHL has agreed to sponsor the shipping, which will take an estimated 40-60 days, and we only have to pay the VAT. This means they will arrive in Israel near the end of April, so we're hoping to get the boards into Gaza no later than early May.
We have three Middle East partners, Surfing for Peace, which is run by Arthur Rashkovan; Explore Corps, headed up by Matthew Olsen; and the Peres Center for Peace is our designated NGO on the ground in Israel, which has to approve any shipments into Gaza. Surfing for Peace has in mind an ambitious plan to start up surfing camps in Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, joining Israeli surfers together with Arab surfers in the region in a kind of cross-border solidarity. Explore Corps is a US-based non-profit that designs and builds youth recreational programming in Gaza, including the Gaza Surf Club, gazasurfclub.com.
Meanwhile, two American filmmakers are looking into the Gaza Surf Relief story. Hence, going forward, contributions received for Gaza Surf Relief will be used to help in the development and promotion of these documentary projects. Interested supporters can email me at jordane-at-levantinecenter.org for detailed proposals.
Levantine Cultural Center
Read September 2007 update.
July 31, 2007, Los Angeles
To Whom It May Concern:
In response to the July 29th LA Times article entitled "Gaza Surfers Find Freedom in the Sea" by Louise Roug, I have decided to embark on a project to donate used/new surfboards and equipment to send over to Gaza. Surf boards for Gaza surfers are in painfully short supply, and often beyond economic reach. Our help is greatly needed.
Ahmed Abu Hassan, 28, and Mohammed Jayab, 34, surfers who hang out at the Al Deira beach in Gaza. (Wissam Nassar / For The Times)
This is a non-partisan drive whose purpose is to provide Palestinian youth with the feeling of joy and bliss achieved through surfing, and to provide an alternative way to escape life's daily hardships. Contributions are welcome from everyone and everywhere in the world.
I am looking to coordinate the contribution of at least 25 used/new boards (must be in ride-able condition), leashes, replacement fins, duct tape (for repairs), warm water wax (new only), and rash guards (new or slightly used).
In addition, funding will be needed to bubble wrap the boards and send over the shipment. Any large monetary donation can be sent to the Levantine Cultural Center, whose help in this initiative will make your contributions fully tax-deductible.
Gaza Surf Relief Action Committee
Partners in the Middle East include Surfing for Peace and Explore Corps.
We are currently seeking a way for international donors to ship boards without incurring great cost. Haithem El-Zabri is working to locate an organization in Gaza that can be used to collect all boards and distribute them properly.
With the help of Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times, I have contacted Hamada Qammar, a BBC correspondent in Gaza, who has helped us by offering to assist in transporting the shipment from Jerusalem to Gaza, and also by getting us in touch with a photojournalist who can provide pictures of the surf areas.
I also hope to be able to film a documentary of this project so that I may show all those that supported in donations to see how they've helped.
Please pass this on to anyone you know who surfs or who may like to help.
Thanks and please show your support as generously as you can.
Seweryn "Sev" Sztalkoper
Gaza Surf Relief
A donation option is at the bottom of this page. To contribute by phone, call Levantine Cultural Center, 310.657.5511, or send checks to Levantine Center, 5998 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90035. Be sure to inscribe "Gaza Surf Relief" in the memo line of your check and include your address and phone number.
We have already received 3 boards, with another 10 pledged in the Los Angeles Area, 10 pledged from Hawaii, 4 pledged from Costa Rica, and pledged donors from Australia and Portugal.
The responses from friends I've emailed and from a thread I've posted on A Small World, has been a great success, many are interested in helping and constant feedback on this project is coming in.