Women in Iran are pinning their hopes on Hassan Rohani to pass what would be a sweeping reform in the Islamic Republic – allowing them to enter a soccer stadium.
The issue is not minor in a country where an Iranian sports journalist told Turkey’s Hurriyet News, “In terms of freedom of expression, football stadiums are nearly as important as the Internet in Iran now.”
Rohani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad found out the hard way that allowing women to enter a soccer stadium is frowned upon by Muslim clerics. He announced in 2006 that women could go the stadium, especially when it comes to lavishing praise on the national team after a victory over an enemy, such as the United States.
Has was forced to back down after leading clerics vehemently objected to allowing men and women to come so close together in a public place.
The Peres Center for Peace is a non-profit organization which was founded in 1996 with the goal of promoting peace between Palestinians and Israelis at the grassroots level, through people to people interactions. According to project manager Sivan Hendel,
The center is working through all sorts of aspects to bring Jews and Arabs together, in order to break down barriers and build a sustainable future.
One of the ways that the Peres Center for Peace is doing this is through having Palestinian and Israeli children regularly play sports together.
Hendel explained that the Peres Center for Peace twins one Israeli school or group with a Palestinian one through the “Twined Peace and Sports School Program,” which is taking place for its tenth year. Usually, both the Israeli and Palestinian children hail from underprivileged communities, where the children potentially may not have had the chance to partake on a sports team otherwise. The Israeli and Palestinian children train with a local coach within their community twice per week, and then the Israeli and Palestinian children come together once per month for a joint activity. She claims that the children don’t only play sports with one another, but also engage in cultural events and activities that promote peace education.
THE 2013 MINI-MONDIAL
Photo credit: Efrat Saar, Peres Center for Peace
Once per year both Israeli and Palestinian children look forward to Mini-Mondial event, a soccer tournament for children in the program. It includes one mini-mondial for boys and one for girls, with each group consisting of 250 Israeli and Palestinian children. During the mini-mondial, Palestinian and Israeli children are mixed together on the same team and then play against another group of Palestinian and Israeli children that are also part of the same team. However, Hendel explained that the children are not only judged on how well they play soccer. In fact, the largest trophy goes to the children that treat the other children in the group the most respectfully.
Hendel reported that this years’ 2013 Mini-Mondial was a success. Even though language barriers and cultural differences can make things challenging at times, the main thing is that the children enjoyed playing soccer together. Hendel explained, “Once they have one identity and flag they are cheering for, they are proud of this group.” In fact, friendships are forming among the Israeli and Palestinian children as a result of joint events like the 2013 Mini-Mondial.
PALESTINIAN AND ISRAELI REACTIONS
According to Hendel, although the situation varies from child to child, family to family, location to location, and based on the present political situation,
“From the evaluating process inside our department, there is a change in the kids mind and their opinions about the other side. The most important result is the fear diminishing and they start to see the other side as human. That is really felt, even in our day to day activities. The biggest problem in our conflict is that people don’t know each other and they demonize the other side.”
Photo Credit: Efrat Saar. Peres Center for Peace.
The parents are also usually very supportive of the program. According to Hendel,
Usually there is no problem at all. Usually the parents want to see their kids play. It’s very nice for them to have a football framework for their kids, so most of them not only approve it, but really support it.
Additionally, the Peres Center for Peace set up a parents group and the parents of the children met together, independent from their children playing sports together.
When asked how sports can be utilized to promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis, Hendel responded,
Sports is an international language. You don’t have to understand them verbally. The moment they go out to pitch; all of the differences disappear. It is very nice to see and feel how through sports they are able to communicate.
A Greek soccer player has been banned for life from playing for the national team after giving the Nazi salute during a game.
Giorgos Katidis, 20, who plays for the AEK Athens team, gave the salute after scoring the winning goal in a match on March 15, the same day Greek Jews marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Thessaloniki Jewish community to Auschwitz.
The Greek soccer federation on Sunday barred Katidis from playing for the national team for life, saying that the Nazi salute was a “severe provocation” and an insult to “all the victims of Nazi barbarity.”
Katidis, who used to play for a Thessaloniki team, claimed he was unaware of the meaning of the salute and apologized for his act. “I am not a racist,” he said in a message on Twitter.
In recent months Greece has seen an upsurge in such incidents with the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, whose members and leaders often give the salutes and employ other Nazi imagery
Speaking at a ceremony on Sunday to mark the deportation of the Thessaloniki Jews, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowed to take a harsher stance against neo-Nazis and racists.
The Palestinian Authority has buried another attempt to resurrect the peace process, this time rejecting President Shimon Peres’ proposal for a “peace process soccer game.”
The reason – if you are ready for this – might be funny if it were not true: The suggestion was made without consulting them.
President Peres and the Barcelona’s Barca soccer club president Sandro Rosell pitched the idea last week at a joint press conference.
“A soccer club is also a school. It is educational; it teaches our children to play together despite their difference,” declared the President. “Real peace is between people and not just between governments and as our children love Barcelona, so, too, do children in the Palestinian Authority.”
Rosell added, “We would like, with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, to promote the idea of a football match for peace. We understand that peace will only be possible if we build confidence, respect and understanding between the two peoples.”
“The decision was made without consulting us. They think that it is our obligation to do what the masters of the region demand,” said a straight-faced Jibril Rajoub, director of the Palestinian Authority Football Association.
He made it clear that the idea was great. “This is a good and amazing idea which I love. I really think that sports and soccer can be used to build trust and create peace,” according to Rajoub. The problem apparently is that he did not think of it first.
Furthermore, he said the idea of Israel and PA Arabs playing on the same team against Barcelona is not feasible because “Israel does not even recognize us as a sporting entity.”
For the record, Peres did not demand that the PA side recognize Israel as a “Jewish team.” Rajoub could have seized on that as a precedent for not satisfying Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Instead, he complained that Israel blocked a FIFA official from arriving in Judea and Samaria and not allowing several PA soccer players to travel from Ramallah to Gaza.
“The “current atmosphere is not appropriate for a match like this,” he concluded in a gross understatement.
As in the diplomatic process, the Palestinian Authority has laid down conditions for the “peace process game.”
The Peres Peace Center still doesn’t give up. Its director Ido Sharir was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying, “The Palestinians have made requests, some more legitimate than others, and we are trying to deal with that. There are a lot of variables that are out of our control and can affect an initiative like this. But we have a good base [for arranging the match].”
The game is supposed to be played in July, although the question remains, “Which July?
Reminder: the “peace process” was supposed to have concluded several years ago.
President Shimon Peres and the head of the Barcelona soccer club announced on Thursday a special soccer match for peace that will include players from the Palestinian Authority.
President Peres told club president Sandro Rosell at a press conference, “I am delighted that we will have the opportunity to launch this project together. Your club motto is “Mes Que un club” and it’s true. Barca is ‘more than a club. It is a message. A message of togetherness. A message of friendship…
“A soccer club is also a school. It is educational; it teaches our children to play together despite their differences.”
He then turned to his vision of peace and stated, “Real peace is between people and not just between governments and as our children love Barcelona, so, too, do children in the Palestinian Authority.
Rosell announced, “Tomorrow, Friday, we are going to Ramallah to meet his excellency Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority. We would like, with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, to promote the idea of a football match for peace. We understand that peace will only be possible if we build confidence, respect and understanding between the two peoples. We believe with all our heart that a match involving Barca, with the collaboration of Israelis and Palestinians, can contribute to reestablish those links which are indispensable for people to live together peacefully.”
At the end of the statements President Peres and Rosell exchanged shirts, with President Peres receiving an FC Barcelona shirt with his name on the back and Rosell receiving a shirt with his name on the back from the PeresCenter for Peace.
Fans of the British soccer team the Tottenham Spurs were targeted by an apparent anti-Semitic attack at a pub in Lyon, France. The Spurs traditionally have had a large Jewish support base in London, which is sometimes referred to as the “Yid Army.”
Some 50 attackers entered the Smoking Dog on Wednesday night making a Nazi salute before smashing doors and throwing chairs and other objects.
There were about 150 Spurs fans in the pub, which is popular with British expatriates in France, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Three Spurs fans were injured. A Lyon newspaper described the attackers as skinheads, the newspaper reported.
Tottenham was scheduled to play Olympique Lyonnais in a Europa League game on Thursday.
In November, some 50 assailants wielding cobblestones, metal bars and knives attacked British Spurs’ fans and trashed a pub in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori square. One British fan was stabbed in the incident.
Last night I was stuck in Jerusalem traffic (Jerusalem was designed to handle 400 vehicles, give or take a horse-drawn buggy, and is invaded each weekday by a million motorists), and because I always think of you, dear reader, my radio was tuned to Reshet Bet to catch the news (Kol Israel has a new news edition on the hour and the half hour, and if we’re not careful they’re perfectly ready to do minute 15 and 45, too). The 5 PM news had two items that would have made me fall off my seat laughing under normal conditions, and I’m not sure which one should be delivered first—my instinct says to go with the individual and move up to the group story.
Believe it or not, “Robbery by note” is a regular crime category in Israel. It involves a guy walking into a bank, presenting the teller with a note demanding a certain amount of money, and the teller gives it over.
Yes, it’s just like the bank robbery scene from Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run.”
Yesterday, in Ashdod, the robber’s note read: “This is a robbery.” He passed this note to a bank teller in the city’s A Quarter. The teller handed over to the robber—whom he assumed was armed, but that part is not at all clear—the amount of money he had on hand, and soon after, the robber disappeared.
Estimates are that the robber walked away with tens of thousands of shekels, which is a very good pay for writing such a short note. I mean, for that kind of money I’d expect several typed pages with an executive summary, but I would be wrong.
On January 29, the same thing took place in the city of Lod, where the robber submitted a written request for 20 thousand shekels, the teller happened to have that amount on hand, placed it in a handsome envelope and gave it to the man.
It was all shot on a smartphone by a waiting customer and shown on Channel 10 News.
So that’s one great way of making a living from writing in Israel.
THE WAGES OF RACISM
On Thursday, three days before the soccer match between Beitar Jerusalem and the team representing the Arab town of Sakhnin, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, and the Israel Sports Betting Board, transferred to Beitar the amount of 200 thousand shekels to help the team with its action against violence and racism that have recently exploded among some fans—in reaction to the addition of two Muslim players from Chechnya (Chech players?) Zaor Sdayeb and Jibril Kdayeb.
As you may recall, several Beitar Jerusalem fans expressed their firm objection to the addition of non-Jewish players to their favorite team by carrying a huge sign, big enough to be seen by the NY Times, with the immortal phrase: “Beitar Pure Forever.”
Yes, if you’re thinking “How Aryan is that?” your parents haven’t wasted all that Hebrew day school tuition money for naught.
But now, as it turns out, writing those three words on a banner and raising that banner in full view of the world media (which, I’ll admit, is harder than just jotting a note and handing it to a teller) can yield a very nice return on your efforts. I mean, that’s better than $50 thousand for one afternoon’s work. It even beats robbing banks, where you have to schlep from one bank to another with your note before you can put together that kind of cash.