-SPORT SCHOOL BRINGS PALESTINIAN AND ISRAELI CHILDREN TOGETHER

SPECIAL REPORT

The following article is the first in a series devoted to the fostering of dialogue and understanding between Palestinian and Israeli citizens. In this article we read how children from both sides between the ages of 6 and 13 have come together through sport.

JUNE 22, 2008 –  Six years ago Israel’s The Peres Center for Peace created the Twinned Peace Sport Schools programme for Palestinian and Israeli boys and girls between the ages of 6 to 13. The after-school programme ‘imparts the values of peace and mutual understanding, encourages acceptance of cultural differences, and breaks down negative stereotypes.’

When launched in 2002, the programme reached a mere 70 boys and girls on each side.  Currently about 1,600 Palestinian and Israeli youth from disadvantaged and peripheral communities attend this successful project.

As pointed out by the Peres Center for Peace, ‘Sport is a powerful tool for bringing people from different backgrounds together, providing a common platform for contact and interaction. In particular, football and basketball – two very popular sports among both Palestinians and Israelis – have the power to unite youth from different sides of the divide, as Palestinians and Israelis play football and basketball according to the same rules, and even idolize the same sport stars.’

Over the past years the programme has been well received and supported by individuals, international NGOs, and foreign governments including Canada, Greece, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway and the People’s Republic of China.

Earlier this year, the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen visited  the Twinned Peace Football Schools programme, and met with some 80 boys and girls playing football in mixed Palestinian-Israeli teams. The youngsters hailed from the Palestinian communities of Bethlehem and Hebron and the Israeli communities of Kiriyat Gat and Yeruham. (See the above photo-with thanks to Peres Center.)

Specific details on this outstanding project can be seen at:

http://www.peres-center.org/SectionProject.asp?cc=01160201

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