United by the thrill

A small, tight group of skateboarders have come together to skate for the love of it, in Jerusalem.

dash cover 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
dash cover 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The following is the February cover story from d"ash, the new Jerusalem Post Israel magazine for young people around the world Israel's capital is best known for its religious sites and significance, and too often for being a target of Palestinian terrorism. Yet it is here that a small, tight group of skateboarders have come together, united by their love of the thrill of buzzing around at top speed on a thin piece of wood on wheels. Mostly between the ages of 14 and 18, they go to high school during the day, but spend hours each evening and most of their weekends perfecting complicated jumps and slides. While the sports of choice in Israel are overwhelmingly soccer and basketball, this group is attracted to a pastime that provides excitement and an adrenaline rush that they say is second to none. The main focus of the Jerusalem scene is the small skateboard park tucked into a corner of Gan Sacher, the biggest park downtown. Built in 1991, critics call it unprofessional - "The transitions are bad and it's sometime hard to skate," says Gili Levi, owner of Gili's Skateshop, who has been skating there for 15 years - and too small. But for the past 15 years this is where hundreds of aficionados have come to hone their skills and practice the tricks they see on the internet and on TV. Gili says his dream is to raise enough cash to build a bigger, more professional park. Awkward and small it may be, but even on a chilly Sunday evening in January the kids are out there, going through their moves. Fifteen-year-old Ben Tzipras is dressed like many of the others. Sporting baggy jeans, worn sneakers and numerous piercings in his ears and nose, Tzipras has a serious look on his face as he tries another kickflip move, jumping high in the air while the board twists over, and landing deftly on it as it continues to roll. He clearly has much less experience than many of the older skaters, but no lack of enthusiasm. Ben tells d"ash: "Since I started five months ago I've been coming down here to Gan Sacher as often as I can. I love it. It's amazing what you can do with a piece of wood on wheels. It's the best feeling. It's like an escape from reality. This is our place." While Tel Aviv has more skateboarders than Jerusalem does, it lacks a central focus like the Gan Sacher park. "It's the epicenter of our lives," says Lior Pinter, 17, and a veteran of the local scene. "We're like a family. Everyone supports everyone." Pinter says he feels most at home among his skateboarding friends, many of whom he met at Gan Sacher. He is even planning to request a desk job when he joins the army next year "so I won't have to give up my skateboarding. "We spend most of our time together, even if we're not skating. We all listen to the same rap and punk music and like the same things. We know that most people look at us a bit strangely and don't understand where we're coming from but we don't care. We just want to skate." Jeff Hartman, also 17, concurs: "It's just such a great release from all the stress and worries of life," he says. Jeff and his 12-year-old-brother Luke hail from the US. They both love to skate. "I've been skating for six years and Luke's been skating for a year and a half. We've lived here in Israel for a little over three months now. I love skating here in Jerusalem cuz the scene is really relaxed compared to the States and even compared to Tel Aviv. Here you can just go skate because you want to go out and have fun instead of always worrying about trying to be the best or trying to get sponsored by a company. The skaters here in Jerusalem skate because they love it and you can tell because they're so good at it! To me, that's the most important thing in skating - to never lose the love for it that you had when you started. "The park here is really fun, I mean it isn't built all that great, but the skaters here still shred it like it's a world class park! "I've been skating for six years now and I still can't explain what keeps me so addicted to it. It's like a drug almost... the feeling of the board under your feet after a long day at school, just rolling down the sidewalk the world's problems just seem so small."