The first rowing competition with the participation of Palestinian women on the beaches of Gaza

Boats sway and outdated wooden oars spin in the waters of the Gaza sea, where the Palestinian Sailing and Rowing Federation organized on Wednesday the first tournament in which four girls participated, despite the lack of tools and equipment for this sport in the Strip. Which has been witnessing an Israeli siege for nearly 15 years.
The head of the Palestinian Sailing and Rowing Federation, Khaldoun Abu Salim, said, "This is the first event organized by the union. We have participation from women and men, and we hope that the world will see that we have talents."
About forty participants, including fishermen, marine lifeguards and some amateur athletes from the sector, participate in this competition, which lasted for several hours.
The Federation, which is a member of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, which was formed about a year ago, according to Abu Salim, suffers from a lack of capabilities, as there are no boats dedicated to the sport of rowing, nor oars, nor clubs or training centers.
Participants in this sport use small and old wooden fishing boats called “Hasaka”, which are not suitable for rowing tournaments.
Nevertheless, the majority of the participants, who were dressed in blue, raise the Palestinian flag on those boats that stretched along the shore.
Direct comments on the progress of the competition are raised through a loudspeaker, and include encouragement for the participants who competed in a sea that witnessed strong waves.
This competition highlights a different image of the beach, which has long been the subject of conflict between the Gazans and Israel, especially in the issue of fishing. In 2014, four children were killed by Israeli fire while they were playing on the beach.
Israel imposes a strict blockade by sea, land and air on the Gaza Strip, which is witnessing extreme poverty, and in which more than two million people reside.
Maher El-Gamal, the coach of the Rowing Union team, told AFP, "We have no capabilities or legal nets," noting that "about thirty contestants, including fishermen and marine lifeguards, only own fishing nets," noting that others rented boats to participate.
El-Gamal added that, "He represented Palestine in a previous rowing championship held in Tunisia in 2006, and we got second place."
Four girls participated in this competition.
“I participated in the 250-meter rowing competition, my family has always been my first motivation,” says one of them, Aseel El-Gamal, 14, the daughter of trainer Maher El-Gamal.
The girl admits that she has faced negative criticism from society, but adds, "I have a sportsmanship as a girl and my ambition in the future is to travel to countries such as Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates to participate in rowing competitions."
As for Bisan Bakr, 17, who rented a small fishing boat and oarsmen, she expresses her happiness for winning first place among the girls, and hopes to obtain “international centers” in the future.
For his part, 30-year-old Muhammad Al-Hassi said, "Today I participated in the 800-meter doubles race. This is a sport I have been practicing for years," stressing that the boats that participated in the competition "are not qualified and are more than twenty years old."
Among the participants in the competition is Majdi Al-Tatar (42 years old), who suffers from motor paralysis due to a traffic accident.
Al-Tatar says, “It is a wonderful feeling when I am rowing in the sea. I feel that life is beautiful. My message to people is that despite the movement injury, you are making an imprint in building society.”

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