Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Kick in the Right Direction

One of the most popular soccer/football teams in Israel, Hapoel Tel Aviv (not to be confused with Maccabi Tel Aviv) has initiated a program to bring Israeli kids and Palestinian kids from East Jerusalem together to allow them to each meet the players on this popular team and then to play together. The idea of the program is to allow this kids to know one another, have fun together all with the goal of reducing stereotypes that they may form about one another as they grow.

Considerably more information about the programme is here on the team's education and social projects' page. What's interesting to note is that not only is there such a programme for these children, but that the team also runs a similar one for special needs children. Beyond that there are also details of the great efforts officials from the team and their Palestinian counterparts are making in bringing tournaments involving Israeli and Palestinian children to communities on both sides of the green line (the pre-1967 Israeli borders.)

These programs are similar to ones carried out by NGOs like "Seeds of Peace" or "Right to Play" which bring together Israeli and Palestinian children at an annual summer camp and provide safe environments for children to play sports in, respectively. The Hapoel Tel Aviv project seems to take the best of both worlds and brings together these children--close to home--to play sports with each other, as opposed to Palestinians playing only with other Palestinians or Israelis playing only with other Israelis. The Right to Play website offers some statistics on the real impact this type of participation in sports could have on children and it is encouraging. Ideally, programs like this will receive widespread support not only from local authorities, but from the parents of the children and from national and religious leaders.

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