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Surfing For Peace In The Middle East

Doc Paskowitz may well be the oldest surfer still riding the waves. He's a California surfing legend, calls himself the first Jewish surfer.

At age 86, he figures he's earned some privileges.

"I get to be a pain in the touchas," Paskowitz, whose given name is Dorian. "And the older I get the less I worry about being a pain in the touchas."

And this past week he became a pain in the touchas in the pursuit of Middle East peace. You might call it surfboard diplomacy.

"He comes up with this unusual idea and then takes it to another level," says Arthur Rashkovan, an Israeli surfer.

Doc read about the crowded beaches of the Gaza Strip and about young Palestinians trying to surf but not having enough surfboards.

"So I told myself come, we'll go to Israel and get them some boards," he says.

But there was one problem with Doc's plan. Things in the Middle East are not nearly as mellow as they are here on his beloved California beaches. And things between Gaza and Israel aren't mellow at all.

Since June when the armed militants of Hamas seized control of Gaza, Israel has kept the strip sealed off. Only essential, emergency supplies are allowed in.

So when Doc's helpers rolled 15 surfboards up to the fortified crossing, the guards put it bluntly: You can't go in.

But, Palestinian surfers were waiting on the other side so Doc made it clear to the guards he wouldn't take no for an answer.

"I came 12,500 miles, you are not going to keep me from seeing those men," Paskowitz remembers sating. "I grabbed him I kissed him and he said, 'don't hug me don't hug me!'"

That was enough to get the gates open. The Palestinians carried the boards into Gaza and headed directly for the beach.

Doc hopes they'll find the same sense of peace on the waves that he does.

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