Peres Center for Peace on peace-building in times of conflict
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With the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, the Peres Center for Peace reflects on its use of sport as a peace education tool to bring together Israeli and Palestinian children.

Peres Center for Peace's unique holistic, cross-border programme utilises sport as a peace education tool to bring together Palestinian and Israeli, and Jewish and Arab children and youth together in a safe, healthy and fun environment built on principles of equality, diversity, respect and mutual understanding.

The Peres Center for Peace understands that in this region, the opportunity for Palestinian and Israeli, and Jewish and Arab children to meet each other is incredibly rare. Media, education systems and the current political circumstances keep the two sides apart, while maintaining existing harmful stereotypes and dehumanisation of the "other." Children and youth are severely affected by conflict, and due to the lack of interaction and positive dialogue, they are susceptible to developing fears and misconceptions of the "other."

The “Twinned Peace Sports Schools” project
The Twinned Peace Sport Schools (TPSS) project uses a variety of sports and peace education methods that enable children to meet friends from "the other side," play in mixed teams, avoid direct competition and encourage values of teamwork, equality and mutual appreciation. Since 2002, the programme has touched the lives of over 20,000 Palestinian and Israeli, Jewish and Arab, girls and boys from some 35 disadvantaged Palestinian, Arab and Israeli communities.

When the participants were asked, "Who is more of a warmonger?" at the very start of the programme, 93% of the Palestinian participants answered "Jews", compared with 47% at the end of the year-long programme. Similar results arose on the Israeli side: 100% reflected that Arabs promote war more than Israelis, compared with 63% in the final encounter. At the first meeting 0% answered that Jews and Arabs desire war equally, compared to 38% in the final activity.

Furthermore, the TPSS programme impacts the wider community, as the ripple effects of the project reach far beyond the target group. Participants, their parents and coaches promote their experiences with “the other” in a positive way, among their families, friends, colleagues and pupils.

Recent escalations of violent conflict
For the past couple of weeks, the majority of the Israeli communities that participate in the programme are currently faced with the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza. Furthermore, the current situation has increased the tensions both between the Arab and Jewish communities within Israel as well as cross-border. It is important to note that the programme engages Palestinian participants from the Palestinian Authority (West Bank) and unfortunately has not been able to engage participants from Gaza since 2007.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that our programmes have been faced with the challenge of the escalation of tensions, violence and the deterioration of the political atmosphere. Our programme staff continue to carefully address these issues and work with local partners to provide the participants with the appropriate support and attention that is necessary in such situations.

[This article was edited by the Operating Team]



Middle East

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