November 15, 2022, Updated November 22, 2022

You fall, you get up, and you keep going.

It’s a lesson from skateboarding and a lesson for life, says Paola Ruiloba, a Jerusalem resident from Panama who found in this sport a refuge from her difficulties fitting in as a teenage immigrant.

Now 29, she’s one of the organizers of Jerusalem Skater Girls (JSG), a 12-year-old skateboarding community for girls and women from ages eight to 53, from across Israel and its many ethnic groups.

“Today there are still people who are telling us that girls are not good enough to compete, and we’re trying to prove them wrong every time we do a contest,” says Ruiloba, who founded JSG with her friend Maayan Levi.

“Skating gives me a lot of confidence not only when I’m skating,” says one participant.

“It makes me really brave, a lot more daring,” says a young member of JSG.

The group is growing, as its members discover that nobody is judging them for their looks or their ability to speak Hebrew, only for how good they are on a skateboard.

Watch: Sisterhood on skates
Paola Ruiloba, organizer of Jerusalem Skater Girls, in Jerusalem. Still from film

They get training and support for becoming better at the sport, something easily available to male skateboarders but not to female ones. Skateboarding, say the cofounders, empowers women and gives them personal development tools.

“Skateboard for me is a way of life, is art, is love and is community,” says Levi.

Ruiloba describes JSG as a family, as a sisterhood.

“I don’t know if I’m trying to change the world,” she says, “but I’m trying to make it a better place.”

The girls from JSG would agree.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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