Adayoffootballtrainingsandworkshopsorganisedin Shefayim,nearTelAviv,broughttogethernearly100JewishandArabchildrenpromotingcooperationandinterchanges,daysbeforeaseriesof attacks andconfrontationssoaredtensionsinIsrael.
Organised by the Fare member New Israel Fund (NIF) football anti-racism campaign Kick Out Israel, as part of the Football People actions weeks, the initiative saw four teams of boys and girls from different parts of Israel engage in football activities and train together in a friendly session at the Israel Football Association headquarters.
In addition, the children of the Bnei Sakhnin, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Beitar Pardes Hanna and Maccabi Rotem Barkai teams had the opportunity to meet the players of the Israel U-19 men’s squad, with whom they learned new tricks and discussed about team work, respect and coexistence.
Israel Under 19 manager Eli Ohana said: “In football it is not relevant if somebody is an Arab or a Jew as long as he is a talented player. We would like to see people considered equal in all areas not only football.
“I hope that events like these can make us into a better society in the future because football has the power to change things.”
Also in attendance at the event was Salah Hasarma, manager of top tier club Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, who was the first Arab player signed at Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv, the same team where he worked with Ohana, 12 years ago.
Building on his experience Hasarma said, “I always learned to respect people regardless of their religion, race or gender and look for what people have in common not what separates them.
“Perhaps because of this I chose a career in football, because it is the greatest privilege to bring people together and build them into a team.”
Followed by the country’s main media in a time of tensions and social instability, the initiative was considered by Walla, Israel’s most popular news website, “An island of sanity”.
NIF representatives said: “The event was a remarkable triumph for football and showed its power to bring Jews and Arabs together especially in these most difficult of times.
“It offered a glimmer of hope and showed the power of football to overcome violence and mistrust.”
For more Football People activities in Israel visit the 2015 List of Activities.