July, 2010 - For the 6th straight summer, Soccer for Peace hosted an overnight camp In Israel for Arab and Jewish youth. This year's installment occurred at Nir Ha'emek, a campus not far from the northern Israeli city of Afula and the northern Palestinian city of Jenin.
Its location was particularly noteworthy in that a group from Jenin participated, joining a group of Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis.
Said Asaf Toledano, Director of the Maccabim Association ( Soccer for Peace 's programming partner), "The presence of kids from Jenin added a layer of depth to the program. For one, Jenin has historically been a Hamas stronghold though is now experiencing a period of calm and growth. But on the individual level, the kids from Jenin generally do not speak Hebrew, making natural intermediaries of the Israeli Arabs and adding a real nuance to the program."
The Jenin contingent was led by Haytam Ayash who runs a nascent center for soccer and coexistence just across the border. According to Haytam, 14 of the kids from Jenin had parents who were formerly "fighters". Moreover, the group was accompanied by Ismael Hatib, whose son was mistaken for a combatant during a 2005 army incursion and killed in an exchange of gunfire. In the hours following that event, Ismael and his wife decided to donate all his son's organs to Jewish children. Campers and staff gathered to watch his story, which was told in a documentary that aired across the region.
As in past summers, the camp comprised soccer training, educational workshops and social excursions. Participants continued in the tradition of visiting a synagogue and mosque, followed by the even more traditional kebab feast. With the World Cup occurring concurrently, campers also gathered to watch the final, staying up into the wee hours to watch Spain outlast the Netherlands. That afternoon they created their own world cup, incorporating the values of tolerance and fairness emphasized at camp.