Jewish and Arab children in Israel will come together for a new football initiative launched by the British Embassy last week.
Funded by UEFA, Coexistence Through Football aims to establish six leagues in northern Israel involving 2,000 youngsters with the aim of “sowing the seeds of coexistence while helping develop disadvantaged communities”.
UK Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said there “was no better way of breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes”, adding: “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.”
The project was launched in cooperation with grassroots football organisation The Equalizer, which already works 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. Teams are given coaching sessions and take part in regional tournaments – giving the participants the opportunity to meet and play with children of the other community.
The launch at Kiryat Shmona Stadium saw more than 180 Arab and Jewish children participated in a tournament alongside professional football players such as Benny Ben Zeken, and representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Sport. A friendly match was held between a team of Jewish and Arab children and the embassy’s squad. The final score was 1-1.