By: Sylvia St. Cyr
Tensions have been high recently between Israeli Arabs and Jews, but a love of sport is bringing them together.
“Sport in and of itself is a language – the language of patience, the language to love the other, to compete against one another, but to respect the other,” says Fayez Abu Shouhaiban to CBN. He is the Mayor of the Bedouin Israeli city of Rahat.
The two cultural groups have been at odds for many years, with recent violence brewing between Israeli Arabs and Jews. But tennis is building a bridge between them.
“Israel is a melting pot for people from all over the world. And here, you’re bringing them together in a sport that is for everyone,” says Ian Froman, an Israeli Jew from South Africa.
He is also co-founder of the Israel Tennis and Education Centers or ITEC and was ITEC’s first Executive Director.
“This is one of the greatest days I’ve spent almost ever because when we started this tennis facility, the idea was to reach as many children as we could,” says Froman. “To see that being a facility for children it now has really encompassed both Jewish kids, Arab kids and of course all other kids. And that was the motivation for doing that.”
Rahat city council members and it’s mayor were invited to ITEC for a day of connecting and finding ways to help the youth in their city.
“My vision for Rahat is to have a sport city. We have 75,000 residents. The education system has 25,000 children, many schools, many pre-schools but I want to launch them into sports, because sports give them room to breathe, gives them everything and makes them smile in the end,” says Abu Shouhaiban.
He was a teacher and principal, born and raised in Rahat. This program will give kids something to do after school.
“The added value especially in this period, at this time that we all went through as citizens of Israel, is to join hands together. There’s no other place for us to live. We have to live together, to speak the language of sport, it’s a language of everyone not a language of another race or religion,” says Abu Shouhaiban.
Froman told CBN that the event is the fulfillment of a dream with Israeli citizens Arabs and Jews coming together not just to co-exist but to work together for a better future.