Jerusalem Skater Girls
Words: Jenna Romano
Meet the Jerusalem Skater Girls, or JSG, a group of fiery female skateboarders, most of whom are Jerusalem natives and all encompassing an uncanny amount of sportsmanship, energy and determination. After almost a decade, these women have resisted giving in to the challenges and oppositions they were faced with when building a brand, a team and a community within a typically male-dominated sport.
When the founders of JSG, Mayaan Levi (26) and Paola Ruiloba (25), are not working or in university finishing their respective degrees in Earth Science and Industrial Design, they are most likely skating. The two fell in love with the sport in 2009 and not only because it was fun, but because skateboarding presented them with new challenges, ineluctable discipline, a community and most importantly, “positive vibes.”
There were no existing skateboarding teams for females in Israel at the time, and in general, little support for the skating culture in Jerusalem. As they were already addicted to the skatepark, Levi and Ruiloba decided to go along with an idea they had: to form a women’s skateboarding team in their native Jerusalem. With this, JSG was born.
“We told each other, let’s do it, let’s jump off the bridge even though the idea sounds crazy!” says Levi. Levi and Ruiloba began building a team of local female skaters, a team that now consists of almost forty active members (and an awesome logo) who regularly practice together in the newly renovated Jerusalem Skate Park in Gan HaPa’amon.
Skating is the kind of sport that consumes you. When they aren’t skating, the girls dream of skating. “You feel that it’s something you always want to do. You walk on the street and you see a bench – you want to skate on it. We can be visiting a museum and think, ‘how can we skate here?’”
Telavivian had the opportunity to speak with an inspiring mother and daughter duo who are also members of the JSG team: Neri and Nancy Katz. Katz started bringing her ten-year-old daughter to the skate park, albeit with a bit of hesitation, though quickly watched her fall in love with the sport. She elaborates on how it developed her character and spirit: “wherever I go in the world, I bring Neri’s skate stuff with us.” Katz became a stable support for the team, her carpools deserving of waitlists. “I drive them all over to go to skate when there’s a competition. Whenever there’s an event, I drive. They [the team] are my kids.”
After a year of watching her daughter and being a support system for the team, Katz couldn’t watch from the sidelines anymore, and started skating herself. “I thought it looked really cool and fun. I took one lesson and fell in love with this place and these people. Age doesn’t matter, how good you are doesn’t matter – it’s about trying. I don’t think you need to wait with your dream, you need to just do it. This is my happy place.”
JSG has been incredibly successful in opening the world of skateboarding to Jerusalem. This past May, JSG hosted their third annual skate competition – the only competition in Israel that dedicated specifically to women’s skateboarding. It is an event for women, by women, with around ninety female skaters from all over the country participating.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of the girls’ community in our scene, by giving girls and women the feeling that they can do it, that they are free, that they belong, by giving girls the confidence they need to do what they dare, and expose more girls to skateboarding.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of this venture goes beyond the sport itself. The entrepreneurial spirit that has led these women to be linchpins in carving a new niche into the city of Jerusalem is one that includes a grander vision of the city’s image – emphasizing culture, diversity and opportunity.
photography: Dafy Hagai