Israeli society is a diverse and complicated mix of Jews, Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Bedouins and Druze as well as refugees from many countries around the world.
Somehow, all must learn to live together, but more often than not, Israelis choose to live within their own closed communities. In many instances, ignorance and distrust leads to tension, violence and conflict, which, once ignited, are difficult to dissipate. Children who grow up in regions of conflict are deeply affected by the rhetoric of violence, with each group developing negative stereotypes of one another.
The ITEC recognized early on the need to provide opportunities for children of differing backgrounds to come together on neutral ground, and created coexistence programs for Arab and Jewish children that encourage both the children and their families to explore one another, engage in dialogue, set common goals and ultimately realize that they can all live together under one roof.
Sport has the unparalleled ability to transcend barriers of language, politics and religion, and is a proven powerful tool for promoting tolerance, cross-cultural relationships and ultimately, peaceful coexistence. The ITEC aims to alter negative perceptions while instilling positive ones, through joint sporting activities held for Jewish, Arab, Druze and Bedouin children. Since the 1970’s, ITEC centers in “mixed” cities such as Jerusalem, Jaffa, Beer Sheva, Tiberias, Haifa, Sajur, Yokneam and Akko have catered to children and families from all religions and ethnic groups – without prejudice.
This grassroots, bottom up approach allows average Israeli citizens to lead the way towards peaceful coexistence in Israel and the entire Middle East region by promoting equality and tolerance, and helps to instill desperately needed hope in today’s turbulent times.
The ITEC offers scholarships to children who wish to join the achievement and/or high performance tennis programs, yet are unable to afford the costs.
Twinned Peace Kindergarten
The Israel Tennis & Education Centers Twinned Kindergartens bring 60 children from an Arab Kindergarten and a Jewish Kindergarten together weekly on one court for motor skills development and activities at the ITECs in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Akko. Through these activities, the values of tolerance and compassion are instilled in the children at an early age and in their families through parent child activities. It promotes understanding of the “other’s” culture, language and breaks down barriers between these young children, enriching their lives and building bridges of peace in the region. The ITEC’s Twinned Kindergarten programs have proven that it is possible to make inroads to building coexistence.
Our second flagship project, the Doubles Coexistence Program, pairs an Arab child and a Jewish child as partners on the tennis court to encourage the children to interact and off the court, thereby building a bridge between the different cultures. This multicultural project fosters dialogue, understanding and acceptance and promotes peaceful coexistence in the families and communities through tennis. The program is currently implemented at the ITEC centers in Tiberias, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa, Sajur and Beer Sheva and combines tennis, fitness training, cultural enrichment activities and tournaments as means of facilitating trust and cooperation between Arab and Jewish youth and their families. The children also engage in sport psychology workshops facilitated by certified mental health professionals.
Esther Lynne Burnett Learning Together
The Esther Lynne Burnett Learning Together Program was developed in partnership by the Jerusalem Foundation and the Israel Tennis & Education Centers to promote mutual understanding between Jewish and Arab children by nurturing innovative joint learning initiatives.
60 children from the fifth grade participate in this program – a class of 30 children from a school in East Jerusalem and 30 children from a school in West Jerusalem. The children come together at the Ben B. & Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis & Education Center in Jerusalem for shared learning, promoting English conversational skills, tennis and educational/social games focused on learning English vocabulary, sharing hobbies, names of family members and more. Sport activities provide a platform to instill values and behavioral norms around topics like fairness, equality, violence prevention, tolerance and participants’ connection with their own communities.
This program takes place in a safe and neutral location, and provides a space where Jewish and Arab children are encouraged to get to know one another through shared learning and play; to set shared goals and feel part of the team.
The Esther Lynne Burnett Learning Together program provides children with a unique opportunity to form intercultural relationships and friendships, in the classroom and on the court, in a region inundated with interreligious and political conflict.