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Girls' Twinned Peace Sports Schools Delegation to South Africa

 October 11-18, 2013



Point of View : Op-ed

By: Dvir Zivan



"The delegation was made up of four Israeli girls from the local school in Ein Karem and four Palestinian girls from the Branco Weiss School, which includes girls from the villages of Ein Rafa and Ein Nakuba. These girls, between the ages of 15-17, come from the young women's program that operates in Mateh Yehuda regional district. They all live in adjacent neighborhoods, but would never have met were it not for the project. The girls attend different schools, go out separately, shop separately, and occupy different worlds altogether. In this context, it is very easy to develop preconceived notions about the unknown other.


Within the framework of the project, each group trains separately twice a week. The highlight, however, is a joint practice that occurs once a month, during which the girls all train together in mixed groups. These aren't your average soccer practices: the girls also learn Arabic and Hebrew and integrate additional cultural activities, such as dance, all in the spirit of bridging gaps and bringing the two sides closer together.


With this as their background, the representative group set off to South Africa, a country that has suffered for years from the ill effects of slavery and racial supremacy. The goal was twofold: to share a bit of inspiration from the girls' experiences dealing with the conflict here in the Middle East, and also to gain inspiration from the significant process undergone by South Africa since the institution of democracy.


The delegation did indeed make waves in Africa. I was amazed to witness the girls' intricate perceptions. In interviews with a number of local media outlets, it was very exciting to hear their responses. For example, when a journalist asked: "How is it to travel to South Africa with Muslim and Jewish girls?" the girls answered: "At first it was difficult because of the language but now we don't feel any differences. There isn't any 'us' and 'them' here; it's all of us together! We're not excited to play with either 'Jews' or 'Muslims,' because that's not the main thing for us. We're excited to play with girls from South Africa."


In response to the question, "What will you take back with you from South Africa?" one of the Jewish girls answered, "Our friendships. We're all very good friends." Another girl from the delegation overheard this and interjected, "Friends?!? We're sisters!"


Meeting the locals in South Africa was especially interesting. After all, we were invited as a delegation to give testimony to co-existence processes taking place in Israel. Once there, however, in spite of the great changes brought about since the downfall of the Apartheid regime and the establishment of democracy, you can still sense significant gaps and class distinctions among the different social groups.


I was very excited to see how our girls, who came as outsiders, became the glue that bound together the rich girls, who live in golden cages, and the girls who come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Suddenly, there was no Muslim and Jewish, no black and white, no rich and poor – there was just a happy dance circle moving energetically along to the rhythm of the African drums.


We definitely impacted some other factors along the way as well. Even though our intended audience was defined first and foremost as the other girls, our work with representatives of the Jewish Agency and the shalichim in South Africa very much affected their perceptions and exposed them to our work in general. Girls from all socioeconomic levels participated in the soccer tournament that was specially put together in honor of our delegation; this kind of tournament had never taken place before, and our group was the trigger for this historic event!


I was honored to have accompanied the girls throughout this captivating week, and was privileged to witness genuine and meaningful moments amongst the girls within the delegation, as well as between the delegation and the South Africans. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that will always remain very close to my heart."


Dvir Zivan, a project manager in the Sports Department, returned last week with the girls' Twinned Peace Sports Schools delegation from a fascinating cross cultural journey in Johannesburg and Cape Town, in South Africa.


This project belongs to the broader Twinned Peace Sports Schools football program, and supported by Shutfut 2000, which ties together the Regional Council of Mateh Yehuda (through the Ein Kerem and Branco Weiss schools) with the Jewish community of Washington, and in South Africa with the Jewish Federation of Washington and the Real Madrid Foundation.




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Photo Credits:

Efrat Sa'ar
Nir Keidar
Amit Geron
Guido Frebel
Ronnie Gross
Michal Shaffer

Ohad Zwigenberg

Rafi Daloya

Elad Malka

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