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Peace Team starts boot camp 2011

March 6, 2011 – 9:48 am7 Comments

The Peace team marching at the 2008 AFL International Cup

By Danny Brill

In 2008, a select group of 26 Israeli and Palestinian men (13 of each) trained for 9 months, learning how to tackle, handball, pass, and kick goals for the Australian Rules Football International Cup. The International Cup is a gathering of amateur leagues from across the world. (Australian football is currently played professionally only in Australia.) Upon hearing of the idea, the Australian Football League (AFL) jumped at the opportunity to showcase its sport in one of the most conflict-ridden parts of the world. The Peace Team, as it is now called, was the brainchild of Tanya Oziel, who is the Executive Director of the Peres Centre for Peace in Australia, and from personal experience, is also a power not to be messed with. In 2008 these 26 men did not realize that those 9 months would change their lives forever.

Being involved with “footy” is what hooked me in the beginning, but after a few weeks of shlepping out to the kibbutz where training was being held, I started to ask myself some serious questions.

Fast-forward 3 years. The International Cup is again upon us, and we are starting to get the Peace Team ready to give some fight, but this time things are different.

For a start, I no longer believe that all Muslims should be removed from the State of Israel, I no longer believe that violence is the only solution, I no longer believe that there is no one who wants real peace on the other side, and I no longer believe that I am powerless to do anything about the current situation.

After meeting, playing, defending and living with my teammates 3 years ago, the questions I ask myself this time are very very different. Instead of asking myself whether I fear for my life at training, I now ask myself whether I can learn Arabic within 6 months. I have replaced questions about my insecurity of being around “these people” with questions as to how I can learn more about a situation I know nothing about, and teach someone else about my own situation.

I open my eyes to a brand new day of understanding that living in Israel and believing in a lasting peace does not need to come at the cost of abandoning my people, my tradition, my religion and my friends, but rather must be used as a tool to try and make some sense of this G-d-awful mess of a situation. A society that involves people with different beliefs, opinions and religions is the first step to peace. Do I have the power to decide if a people aching for peace or even just some peace and quiet should have their own state? Do I have the power to say whether they should have their own government? Clearly there are some things over which I may not yet have influence, for better or worse.

What I can tell you is that I’m more pumped this time around than 3 years ago, and the Peace Team is on a mission!

Danny Brill is an oleh from Melbourne, living in Jerusalem, who was Assistant Coach/player in the first Peres Peace Team, in 2008.

This is the first in a series of blog entries, written by Danny Brill, about the Peres Peace Team’s participation in the International Cup,  originally published here on the Teaching Israel blog.

The International Cup 2011 (IC11) will be played in both Sydney and Melbourne from Friday August 12 to Saturday August 27, 2011.

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7 Comments »

  • Malki Rose says:

    Go Dan!!!!!!

    A fantastic initiative, which has created so much comradery and some seriously decent footy in 2008.
    Looking forward to August!

  • ariel says:

    It seems a great initiative and Danny (and the rest) have gained a lot from the experience.

    But surely, there should be two teams formed out of this squad?

    If we believe (and the players believe) in a 2-state solution, surely they should form two teams, Israel and Palestine.

    They could train together and socialise together and achieve the same reconciliation, but it appears – APPEARS – to suggest that the 2-state solution is not considered, but rather a one-state solution.
    In other words, the symbolism of the team points to a one-state solution, rather than 2-states living side by side and playing footy against each other in peace and security.

    Symbolism, unfortunately, conveys a lot to a lot of people.

    Perhaps from next year, the guys will discuss the situation of what will happen to their team when the Palestinians have their own state…

  • Malki Rose says:

    The symbolism I got out of it was that they are undivided and totally united in their plight for ‘Peace’.

  • ariel says:

    Malki, I can’t help but notice you put ‘Peace’ in inverted commas, implying a relative term instead of absolute, which is what I was inferring myself…

    Most of the world is undivided and united in their plight for peace. But if you combined all those teams together, there’d be no footy comp…

  • frosh says:

    Ariel,

    The point of the team is to bring Israeli and Palestinian people together where they have to cooperate and depend on one another. If a two-state solution does emerge, both the states will still need close cooperation on a number of fronts, both real and metaphorical.

    The great thing about this initiative is that it appears that it is not simply bringing together the usual ‘inter-faith’ or peacenik types. It sounds like Danny was far from a peacenik before this, so kol hakavod to him and the initiative.

    I don’t think a combined team in this particular tournament suggests anything about a one-state solution.

    It possibly could be different if it is was a more serious nationalistic sporting endeavour – e.g. combined Olympic team, or combined FIFA World Cup Team – but it’s not. This tournament is much more about participation than nationalistic triumph.

    But even then, many independent states combine for the purposes of international sporting competitions, without any suggestion of the states merging politically. A prime example from the top level of sport would be the West Indies cricket team, currently competing at the Cricket World Cup. An even better example (given their history) is the British & Irish Lions, an entity that sometimes competes in International Rugby series.

  • This is an excellent story.

    I would like to remind everyone of a wonderful moment that happened in 2006, in St Kilda, that brought together Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) and Jews in a very powerful act of unity.

    Please read the story here. The photo speaks volumes.

    There should be more of these stories.

    Michael.

  • ariel says:

    frosh,

    I disagree with the last sentence of your first paragraph.

    I agree with the rest of your point – well put.

    Imagine having every few years a charity football tour by a select London team taking in players from Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham, etc. etc.

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