Soccer & Peace Stories

Soccer for Peace summer camp
(Ynet News) In the spirit of the recently concluded Soccer World Cup, 80 Palestinian, Arab-Israeli, and Jewish children graduated from a summer camp recently in which they learned coexistence through the popular sport.

The camp was part of a year-long program called Barkai-Jenin, held by the Maccabim Association. The children in the program, 40 of whom reside in Jenin and 40 of whom reside in Kibbutz Barkai, meet once every two months to share conversations and games. In honor of the World Cup a week-long soccer camp was held.


Jewish and Palestinian peace through soccer


Playing for Peace


Soccer, a bridge for Peace


‘Soccer for Peace’ Helps Build Understanding Between Arabs and Jews

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 By Ahmad Shuja

NEW YORK — Forsan Hussein was born and raised in a tight Arab neighborhood in Israel. He spoke only Arabic and had only Arab friends. Though he lived in a Jewish state, he never met a Jew until he was 10 years old, and he couldn’t speak the other boy’s language, Hebrew.

But they soon discovered they had a language in common — soccer.

“Growing up in Israel you are aware that you are different, that you are a minority,” Hussein said of the tensions he felt as an Arab boy in the Jewish nation (Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s population).

But Hussein learned to speak Hebrew and made Jewish friends when he met them on the soccer field. When kids play together on a team, pass the ball to each other, support their team and ultimately score a goal for it, they break barriers and forge lasting friendships, he said.

“Soccer creates a connection that survives,” the 30-year-old Hussein said, citing the friendships he formed 20 years ago.

Today, he lives in the United States, working with Soccer for Peace, a New York-based nonprofit organization that runs soccer camps for Arab and Jewish children in Israel. He hopes the program will enable Arab and Jewish children in Israel to have the same sort of friendships that he developed 20 years ago.

Click here to read more about Soccer for Peace.

As part of the program, Hussein recently helped organize the Soccer for Peace Cup, bringing together about 300 players from 32 teams in New York City.

The event raised funds for the organization’s programs, which recruit 10- and 11-year-old Arab and Jewish children who have a love of soccer in common. Some 100 kids train and play in a one-week soccer camp, called Camp Coexistence, sharing activities, building bonds and establishing friendships.

The week of camp is followed by a year-long program in which children play more soccer and share other activities — visits to mosques and synagogues, trips to Bedouin camps and class discussions on understanding and peace.

The program is repeated every year for six years. The same set of children train and play soccer in mixed Arab and Jewish teams.

On Saturdays their teams play league matches, and that brings their families — Arabs and Jews — closer.

“You see Jewish families and Arab families supporting the same team; they cheer for the same children. They come together and become friends, building trust and confidence,” said Assaf Toledano, director of the Israeli Maccabim Association, a partner of Soccer for Peace.

“It’s really wonderful and amazing.”

Soccer for Peace believes bringing children and their families closer helps foster peace in the divided region. It hopes to show through Camp Coexistence that if Jews and Arabs can coexist inside Israel, they can coexist outside of it — side by side, in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“Peace is not something that is legislated,” explained Ori Winitzer, founder of Soccer for Peace. “It can only be built between individuals.”

Winitzer, an Israeli-American Jew, hopes Camp Coexistence will make a lasting impact on the children, ultimately changing minds and closing the gaps in their lives.

“The six years is hopefully long enough to build friendships and change attitudes that will last a lifetime,” he said.

The long-term vision of Soccer for Peace is to expand its activities and unite children of communities engulfed in conflict around the world.

But for now it is focusing on the individuals and communities in Israel, goal by goal, person by person.

“Peace in the region has so far been on paper, between politicians. And it has not worked,” said Hussein.

“We are trying to bring peace through the people. It will work.”


Mixed Israeli/Palestinian women’s soccer team play in Vancouver Soccer Festival

Earlier this month, the Vancouver International Soccer Festival hosted their annual soccer tournament promoting global peace and social change, amongst this year’s participants included a joint Israeli/Palestinian Arab soccer team (or football for my international readers).

Noor Daoud, 21, one of the female players from the West Bank, is also a veteran of the Palestinian national team. When interviewed about the impact of the Israeli/Palestinian team at the tournament, Daoud said, “I think it will really, really help, because we’ve never gone out as both teams [together] like this, we never tried it, it’s our first time, and I’m really enjoying it because it’s been a long time [that] I wished this moment would happen. We’re here now and I’m really happy because we can show the world and everybody here that Israelis and Palestinians can mix and we can become one team. I hope one day we will have huge team in Israel and it will be mixed, Palestinians and Israelis.”

Soccer Used To Help Connect Jewish and Arab Israeli Teen Players

Updated: Tuesday, 06 Mar 2012, 7:15 PM EST

By BETH PARKER/myfoxdc

BETHESDA, Md. – Rolling across a soccer field in Bethesda is some hope for world peace. Latifa Barhom is on that field. She lives in Israel. She is Arab. She is part of a program that uses soccer to connect teens in Israel – both Jewish and Arab.

She heads onto a Maryland soccer field hand-in-hand with another teen who, at worst, she might have hated. At best, she would have never met.

“It was mixed emotions. A little nervous because I’m living with them and it’s not just for 10 minutes. We haven’t met before,” says Barhom.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Peres Center for Peace helped bring eight teenage soccer players to Washington this week. The girls live just 20 or 30 minutes from each other, but they were really worlds apart.

“They all live in Israel, but they live in separate villages – an Arab village and a Jewish village. They are basically segregated,” says Wendy Rudolph, a volunteer at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Even their conversation in a classroom at Walt Whitman High School begins with the roll of a soccer ball. Whoever is holding the ball speaks.

One Walt Whitman student says, “Hi, I’m Adam and I traveled to Israel this summer.” There is some eye contact and a smile. Things that get people talking.

“It has just been a wonderful experience to see that when you just get them together and make them realize they’re just people. They’re not Arab, they’re not Jewish, they’re girls and they relate to each other,” says Rudolph.

Rotem Shavro is Jewish. She runs on a soccer field side-by-side with girls who are Arab.

“If I did it, anyone can do it. We will bring the peace to the world because I believe it and I have hope,” she says.


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