May 28, 2009

Jewish-Arab football team to tour Germany

by David Masters

An Israeli youth football team, with both Arab and Jewish players, is set to visit Germany to showcase its model for using sport as a tool for peacemaking.

Visiting as guests of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the Hapoel Abu Ghosh-Mevaseret Zion youth team will present its model of mutual acceptance and co-existence to the people of Germany, and will play matches against two German youth teams.

Through equal Arab-Jewish management, the Abu Ghosh-Mevaseret Zion football team uses sport to create a common purpose that bridges cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious divides.

The club has a Jewish president, Alon Liel, resident of Mevaseret Zion, and an Arab chairman, Muhammad Jabar, who manages community centre in mostly Muslim Abu Ghosh.

“This is a special team that has been playing and training together for the past five years,” Jabar said.

“The players have grown up together, and while there were some clashes between them at first, all of them are now very proud of their Jewish-Arab team.”

The Abu Ghosh-Mevaseret Zion adult team currently plays in Israel’s Southern Regional League, and is aiming for promotion to the national league next season.

A number of football teams in Israel have both Jewish and Arab players, but Abu Ghosh-Mevaseret Zion is the only team with equal management by Jews and Arabs, and the only club that promotes cooperation between the two communities.

Stephan J. Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the team is a practical example of “how neighbours can become friends.”

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