Peace on the Pitch
Peace on the Pitch
Over 300 children and youth participate in Hapoel Tel Aviv's Third Annual National Mixed Teams Tournament at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel.
On the pitch, Sudanese refugees team up with Jewish kids to play against a team of kibbutz youth and kids from a Palestinian village. A goal is scored and a player asks their teammate how to say “great job” in a new and different language. A victorious result leads to hugs all around; a victory for all rather than victory over someone else. Across the other fields, similar teams run about and bring to life Mifalot Chinuch’s Third Annual Mixed Teams National Tournament.
Mifalot is the Education and Social Project of Hapoel Tel Aviv Football Club, a sport for development project that uses football to help over 20,000 children in need per year. The National Mixed Teams Tournament is the annual culmination of Mifalot’s peace-building programs in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This year featured over 300 children from two Mifalot initiatives: Bridge to Peace, supported by the Cherish Our Children International, the Bridgeway Foundation, and the Anthony Robbins Foundation, and Football: Our Common Ground, supported by the European Union. Over the last three years, Hapoel Tel Aviv has helped children connect to new friends and new teammates through these programs. Jewish, Arab, Palestinian, special needs, Druze, Christian, refugee, new immigrant, kibbutz children – they all come together and play as a football team with no boundaries or borders.
Eran Gal, Mifalot’s Education Coordinator, says that the tournament is special because “the smiles we see, the laughs we hear, (and) the fun that is had is so different than every other day. In many ways, it is the same thing we hear on any football field. But today, we have Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs, doing what comes naturally to children: they are playing together.”
Using something they already share – a love for sport – the children break down barriers, combat negative stereotypes, and show the world what cooperation and tolerance looks like in action. The National Mixed Teams Tournament goes beyond a competition and celebration – it is peace-building in action and a testament to what is possible.