PPI – ME has recently expanded to a new area in Jaffa, on Israel’s Western Coast. Below, Aran describes PPI – ME’s new program, and also offers a brief update on the Jerusalem All Stars.
Most of PPI – ME’s activity occurs in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The political circumstances and demographic characteristics of the city, where Palestinians and Israelis often live in very close proximity without having any common venues of interaction, make it one of the neediest areas for PPI – ME’s type of work. Every young person we help forge a closer connection to a peer from the “other” community makes an immediate impact on their family and friends, and helps reconciliation and tolerance spread more quickly than even in some areas where interaction between Palestinians and Israelis is more common.
But of course Jerusalem is not the only city in the region where large numbers of Jews and Arabs live side by side, sometimes with palpable tension. Since its inception, PPI – ME has also operated a smaller program in Jaffa, with activities based in the Arab-Jewish Community Center in the middle of the city. This year PPI – ME deepened its involvement and reached out to the poorer areas of southern Jaffa to set up a team of 10 boys in grades 3-4 that practice twice weekly.
A recruiting event in Jaffa in 2009.
The challenges that PPI – ME faces with its team in southern Jaffa are somewhat different than those it faces in Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem there are two distinct sides to the conflict – Jewish and Arab – in Jaffa, the community contains many more segregated regions within the city. While walking in southern Jaffa it’s easy to identify every neighborhood: here live Arabs, here Russians, here Ethiopians. But when one comes to the courts of B’nai Brith Community Center, PPI – ME’s new home, all this is forgotten. The challenges here may be different, but the PPI way breaks through these divisions just as it does in Jerusalem.
About half of the new Jaffa team players at B’nai Brith are Jewish children from Ethiopian descent. Some of the others are Arabs. While every school in the area is identified predominantly with one ethnic community, these boys can come to our program and simply find another person to connect to, most likely someone very different, and yet fundamentally the same, as they are.
The All Stars scrimmaging against Elitzur Tel Aviv.
Last Sunday saw the youngest All Stars team (7th and 8th graders) travel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv-Jaffa for a friendly match against Elitzur Tel Aviv.
Elitzur Tel Aviv is a team of 15 girls the same age as the All Stars who hail from Jaffa and southern Tel Aviv. This team is another example of the role of sports can play in fostering intercommunity tolerance and taking down ethnic barriers. It has representatives from the Ethiopian-descent community, Russian-descent community, and Israeli-born players. These players play together for 3 years and are often friends off the court. Together, they illustrate the tremendous potential of unity among the many communities of Jaffa.
The game was relaxed and friendly, with everyone prioritizing fun and sportsmanship over competitiveness. It was a nice change of pace for two teams used to stressful matches every week. After the game, refreshments were served, and the teams planned to hold more twinning sessions like this, to deepen and further the connection between the Elitzur Tel Aviv team and PPI – ME.
Afterwards, the girls socialized over refreshments.
This project is partially made possible by the generous support of the American people through USAID.