Israelis train on Bondi Beach to become surf life savers

March 2, 2016 by Henry Benjamin
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Two Israelis are currently being trained in Sydney to reached the bronze proficiency level needed to become surf lifesavers…at a club which boasts 1942 photographs taken of a surf carnival held by Australians on Gaza beach during WWII.

Michael Gerchner, Barak Davidovich, Doron Milner, Steve Rubner and Royi Levi

Michael Gerchner, Barak Davidovich, Doron Milner, Steve Rubner and Royi Levi

40-yr-old Barak Davidovich and Royi Levi, 35, are stepping up their preparations for summer activities on the beach at Ashdod where they live by carrying out extensive training on Bondi’s iconic beach with trainer and advisor Doron Milner from the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club and technical director of education Michael Gencher from the Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club.

The three weeks training is ahead of the launch of the Australian Friends of Surf Life Saving Israel this coming weekend.

Barak Davidovichi enjoys the surf

Barak Davidovich enjoys the surf

The pair is being trained by four life savers from the two famous clubs, one situated at the centre of Australia’s most famous beach and the other at its northern end.

Levi, who is the General Manager of SLSI,  told J-Wire: “Every shabbat there is at least one incident on Tel Aviv’s beach and there are not always lifeguards present. And there are incidents on the entire stretch of Israel’s coastline”.

Sydney-based Steve Rubner is president of both Surf Life Saving Israel and AFSLSI. He told J-Wire: “During a recent Yom Kippur a high profile member of Sydney’s community and his wife rescued a young child who had got into difficulties. The wife resuscitated the child.”

When SLSI was founded in 2015 in Ashdod, the organisers hoped to get 35 young Israelis involved but the number swelled to 77.

Royi Levi and Barak Davidovich get a lesson from Doron Milner

Royi Levi and Barak Davidovich get a lesson from Doron Milner

The plan is to teach potential Israeli surf life savers a program in winter, something which does not happen in Australia. Levi told J-Wire: “We have over 350 lifeguards in Israel but not a single lifesaver. We want to change that. We want to go home having qualified as lifesavers at the bronze level.”

He added: “There are lifeguards at most pools in Israel, but many people are afraid of the sea.”

Life savers in the making

Life savers in the making

Levi said: “We have in place a nippers program similar to what they do in Australia for kids between 8 and 13 and we want to start one as soon as possible for those between 5 and 8.”

Steve Rubner told J-Wire there is a shortage of pools in Israel. “Kids are not taught how to swim or how to respect the sea…something we need to do.”

Although Israel’s entire population lives relatively close to the sea, Rubner told J-Wire that the vast majority have not had experience in dealing with the ocean.

He added: “I had originally been involved with a group called Israel Cultural Connect. My family has an apartment at Ramat Poleg 6kms south of Netanya which is only 300mts from the beach.Within a ten-day period, my family had witnessed an inept rescue on the beach and had read that eight people had lost their lives in drownings. We decided to do something about it. Culture and sport share the same portfolio in the Knesset which had held an inquiry into the incidents without producing a result. We told the ministry that we wanted to do something about the incidents and received a positive response. back in Australia we met with  the international development director of Surf Life Saving Australia and Surf Life Saving Israel was conceived.”

The Australian chapter of Surf Life Saving Israel will be launched on Sunday at Bondi Beach with speeches to be made its patron Premier Mike Baird, its president Steve Rubner, Royi Levi and NSWJBD CEO Vic Alhadeff.

Rubner added that he hoped funding for the project would come from interested sponsors…a project designed to save lives.

All photos: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Enough for one day

Enough for one day

Australian surf carnival in Gaza, 2012

Australian surf carnival in Gaza, 1942

Waiting to catch a wave

Waiting to catch a wave


One Response to “Israelis train on Bondi Beach to become surf life savers”
  1. Graeme Gilovitz says:

    This is a fantastic program and we urge the Australian community to get behind it.

    As an Ex Coogee Club member who made Alyiah 3 years ago, I am please to announce that last week, we secured approval for Netanya to be the 2nd SLSC in Israel.

    We look forward to opening up the branch in June.

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