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The British Embassy in Israel, in cooperation with grassroots football organisation The Equalizer, launched “Coexistence Through Football”, a major project to bring Jewish and Arab children together.
Over 180 Arab and Jewish children participated in a tournament alongside professional football players such as Benny Ben Zeken, legendary Israeli football broadcaster Zuheir Bahloul, representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Sport, and mayors from the region, including the Mayor of Kiryat Shmona, Nissim Malka. The launch event took place in the Kiryat Shmona Stadium, home to the Israeli Premier League winning team of 2011-12.
A friendly match was held between a team of Jewish and Arab children and the embassy’s squad. The final score was 1-1, after a heroic performance from the embassy’s goalkeeper, Owen “The Cat” Adams.
The project’s aim is to bring Jewish and Arab children together, sowing the seeds of coexistence, while helping develop disadvantaged communities and instilling sportive, social and educational values.
Commenting on the launch of the project, the UK Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, said:
“Football is one of the things that ties Israel and Britain together. It gives all those who love it a common language. So it is natural that Britain should support a football project in Israel that will bring together Arab and Jewish children. There can be no better way of breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes.”
The Equalizer is a not-for-profit organisation, working directly with the Ministry of Education and schools to provide year-round football-based activities for Jewish and Arab children aged 10-12.
Currently, the project helps schools in disadvantaged communities in Israel’s southern and central regions form their own football teams and leagues. Each team enjoys two weekly football sessions (run by a certified coach) and two weekly tutoring sessions (run by students) during which the participants learn the core values of living in peace and respecting one another. Once a month, the teams take part in regional tournaments, giving the participants the opportunity, for the first time in their lives, to meet and play with children of the other community.
Rolling out the activities across the Galilee has the potential to make a significant, tangible difference in a region where the need for coexistence is so critical. Last year, the programme reached 650 children in 40 teams across central and southern Israel. By establishing 6 new leagues in northern Israel, we aim to scale up the program’s proven impact and reach 2,000 Jewish and Arab children over the next three years.