School’s out here in Israel, and today some 60 sports coaches arrived in Netanya from the UK and Germany to prepare for a most remarkable summer camp. They are partnering with 100 local coaches to help 1,500 youngsters with their soccer skills. The youngsters — Jews and Arabs, boys and girls — will train and play together for most of next week, building up to a final tournament.
Some 40 communities and regional councils will participate in the camp. Jewish and Arab communities are partnered and the participants are divided into small mixed groups. Part of the time is spent in a Jewish community and part in an Arab one, all participants meet at the final festival, next Thursday. Teams will be judged on fair play, not just results.
The program is called Football 4 Peace, and the message inculcated in all participants is that just as they can play together, they can live together. But it goes deeper than that. It’s also about Jews and Arabs on teams together learning that between them anything is possible. “Players that trust one another play well together,” says Football 4 Peace’s statement of values. “Learning to have faith in the capacities of others to carry out their roles and responsibilities dutifully and mutually, in ways that also contribute to the well being of team-mates, is an essential ingredient of good sportsmanship.”
The program has prestigious backers: Britain’s international cultural agency the British Council, the Israel Sports Authority, Brighton University’s Chelsea School of Sport (UK) and the Sports University in Cologne (Germany), and the European Union.