New Jewish-Arab Football School Launched in Jerusalem (NIF.org)This past Thursday, the 19th of March, the Hapoel Katamon team, the Football Academy of East Jerusalem and the “Kick Racism out of Israeli Football” programme of the New Israel Fund (NIF) jointly launched a new football school for Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem.  A launch event with the kids was held on Thursday to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 21st.  It was a crowded field with all the kids mixed in together doing ball drills and the day was a great success. It was only their third time meeting but you could already see genuine connections forming between them. In a city like Jerusalem that is so divided, it was heartwarming.

Roughly 100 children from football teams in West and East Jerusalem are being trained together for two weeks in the Katamon neighborhood: 50 children from the Hapoel Katamon team and 50 children from Beit Safafa, Beit Hanina, Jabel Mukaber and Wadi Joz, all aged 10-12. The new combined team is called, “Team of Equals”. The goal of the initiative is to introduce Jewish children from West Jerusalem to Arab children from East Jerusalem in order to combat the division and hostility between them and to advance a shared life in the city.

Four players from Hapoel Katamon, including star player Aviram Baruchyan (who played for Beitar Jerusalem in the past), the professional manager of the club Shai Aharon and trainers from the Football Academy in East Jerusalem Ali Otman and Salman Amar came to greet all the young players and help out with their training.

New Jewish-Arab Football School Launched in Jerusalem (NIF.org)The response so far has been uplifting. Organisers have inundated with requests from parents in neighborhoods around the city who want their children to participate as well and every Facebook post receiving a wash of 'likes' and positive comments.  NIF is already looking into the possibility of holding more camps like these in the future.

At the end of the first day, organisers gave each child a "Respect" football donated by UEFA. At first they didn't understand, then got very excited as they realised they were being given the balls to keep. 

There were articles published about the school in the Hebrew and Arab media. Here's one from the Times of Israel and another from I24 News.

You can see all the photos from the event here.

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