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