of the 7,000 Israel Arab and Jewish children, whom came to Tel Aviv's
Bloomfield Stadium. The children are part of a new campaign sponsored
by the New Israel Fund to promote co-existence and mutual respect
7,000 Jewish and Arab Israeli
children sent a powerful message of coexistence throughout Israel last
week by focusing on a common bond - soccer.
The youth, all players in the Hapoel Tel Aviv's junior league, were the
guests of honor at a match between their parent team and rival Hapoel
Petah Tikva in honor of the end of Hannukka and Ramadan.
The event was sponsored by the New Israel Fund under the moniker 'A New
Voice in the Stadium.' The New Israel Fund is a philanthropic partnership
of Israelis, North Americans and Europeans that works to strengthen Israeli
democracy and to ensure equality and social justice for all of Israel's
The children, many of whom had never before been to Tel Aviv, represented
more than 200 towns and villages throughout the country. Dressed in HaPoel
Tel Aviv colors of red and white - they marched around the stadium holding
balloons and placards bearing the names of the Israeli Jewish, Arab, Bedouin
and Druze towns they come from.
"We brought the 7,000 children here tonight to raise their voices against
racism, against intolerance and against violence," said Moti Orenstein,
the team's Chairman.
Eliezer Ya'ari, NIF Executive Director added, "At a time when soccer matches
have become notorious breeding grounds for racism and incitement, we are
using the soccer field to insure that 'A New Voice in the Stadium' - calling
for co-existence and the end of incitement - will be heard loud and clear
among all diverse groups all across Israel."
After circling the field, the children took their seats in the stadium
among some 20,000 spectators who came to watch the exciting match. Forty
minutes into the game, Salim Towama, Hapoel Tel Aviv's only Arab player,
scored the first of the team's two goals - sending the crowd, especially
the children, into pandemonium. The crowd favorites - Tel Aviv - won the
After the game, Towama said he felt soccer brings peoples together. "I
hope that it will happen outside of soccer and that there will be quiet
here," he added.
Sultan Nabar, 25, an Israeli Arab from Kfar Hura, who is an umpire in
the junior league seconded that emotion.
"Soccer is the best thing because it allows co-existence between Jews
and Arabs. Sport is against violence and if you bring the Jews and Arabs
together and on the same team it fosters co-existence because they have
nothing to fight about."