Mark Gerban was recently invited to talk with TheCelebrity.Online Magazine and share his life journey with us. Below is the Q&A session we had with Mr. Mark.
“Beyond my sports and career accomplishments, I’m actively involved in human rights work” – Mark Gerban
How do you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Mark Gerban. Originally from the US, my background is diverse, encompassing Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, and Jewish heritage. After nearly two decades of living in Germany, I am now a German citizen. In 2005, I made history as the first person ever to represent Palestine at the World Championships and achieved the highest-placed finish for any Palestinian athlete in a World Championship event at that time. Following my retirement from competitive sports, I transitioned into the Fintech and Automotive sectors, working with major companies, including Apple. Currently immersed in the automotive field, I find fulfillment in delivering presentations to large international audiences and have accumulated around 20 filed patents in the industry. Additionally, I’m passionate about human rights and volunteer as the manager for the Palestinian National Team in the sport of rowing. I’m currently working to give the next generation Palestinian rower a chance to qualify for the Olympics.
Childhood to Adulthood – How was your transition from childhood to adulthood and what are the bad and good things you remember?
Bad Things: My journey from childhood to adulthood was quite difficult due to the complexities of navigating a mixed cultural background. Growing up with both Israeli and Palestinian heritage in America, I struggled to define my cultural identity. The events of 9/11 brought an additional layer of difficulty, with negative reactions from my surroundings due to my sisters’ conversion to Islam. At the time, I found myself more close-minded and resistant to my Islamic heritage. This period was challenging, as I faced the clash of cultural values, grappled with my own ignorance, and struggled to accept my roots amid societal pressures.
Good Things: On the positive side, my sports career became a beacon of success for Palestine, leading to incredible personal growth. In 2005, I made history by becoming the first person to represent Palestine at the World Championships in rowing, marking a significant moment for Palestinian sports. This achievement also established me as the most successful athlete from Palestine at that time. The transition from childhood to adulthood, though initially challenging, took a positive turn as I found purpose and success in my athletic pursuits. This contributed to a stronger sense of identity and accomplishment, guiding me to consider perspectives from all angles to understand the truth of the matter.
Struggle – What hardships have you gone through in life?
The struggle during my rowing journey in 2005 went well beyond normal challenges, as I was kicked out of my rowing club in the United States due to discriminatory issues. This occurred because of my decision to represent Palestine—a choice that disrupted norms and defied expectations within the U.S. sports community. The discriminatory issues I faced created additional social problems, eventually leading to the decision to leave the country. Venturing alone to Germany for intensive training with German national team athletes ahead of the World Championships presented a daunting challenge. Navigating cultural differences, language barriers, and the uncertainties of a foreign land tested my resilience. Living on my own, far from familiar surroundings, forced me to confront not only the physical demands of elite-level sports but also the emotional and psychological aspects of my own personal growth. The struggle took on a tangible form as I dedicated myself to securing a chance to compete at the Olympics, only to narrowly miss qualifying. The subsequent journey of life after sports to rebuild myself in a foreign country was also a significant challenge, as I had to personally explore myself and determine how I wanted to define myself in the face of setbacks. The struggle evolved into a reflection on resilience, acknowledging that despite the missed Olympic opportunity, I had given it my all. While some might label it as failure, I see things now as a testament to true dedication and effort, and I am happy with the outcome.
What do people usually not know about you?
Beyond my sports and career accomplishments, I’m actively involved in human rights work. I volunteer as a manager for the Palestinian National Team in rowing, supporting the next generation of Palestinian rowers. I’ve also written a book which I hope to have published one day, to share my diverse background, aiming to promote understanding across cultures. This reflects my commitment to making a positive impact beyond sports and professional pursuits.
What sets you apart from your competitors in the industry and in life?
In both my professional and personal life, what sets me apart is my unique background and experiences. Raised with Israeli and Palestinian heritage in the US, I’ve learned to navigate complex cultural dynamics, promoting a broader perspective to avoid misunderstandings. This background, along with my accomplishments as Palestine’s most successful athlete at the time, and my contributions to the automotive and Fintech sectors, positions me as someone who offers diverse insights, resilience, and a dedicated commitment to making a positive impact.
What are your upcoming major events?
There are a few international speaking events at upcoming automotive shows, during which I’ll share insights on industry trends and innovations. Moreover, I’m actively involved in preparing the Palestinian single sculler, Amel Younis, for the Asian Olympic qualification regatta in South Korea scheduled for April 2024. This event holds great significance for Palestine amidst ongoing challenges in Gaza, and I hope we can secure representation at the Olympics in Paris this year. It’s been a privilege supporting Amel on his journey thus far on the international stage.
What expert advice would you like to give?
In navigating life’s journey, my advice is to believe in the power of authenticity, open-mindedness, and consideration for diverse perspectives. Being genuine and treating others with kindness not only enriches personal relationships but also fosters a positive environment in any setting. Embrace a broader perspective; it will contribute to your personal growth, helping you make informed decisions, foster understanding, and promote harmony in every aspect of life. I also recommend engaging in activities that bring genuine joy and fulfillment, even if it means challenging the status quo and venturing into unexplored territories. The courage to pursue passions, even when faced with strong resistance, means that taking the road less traveled often involves encountering pushback and overcoming challenges, requiring resilience and a positive mindset. Overall, the thrill of doing something new, venturing into unexplored territories, can lead to groundbreaking achievements and leave a lasting impact on yourself and the world.
Your social media handles and website links?