March 15, 2022

One Team – Sports for Social Change and the collective power of sport for peace

People-to-people peacebuilding programs focus on bringing people together, from different ethnic, religious, or political backgrounds, as a mechanism for building mutual trust amidst conflict. Many programs that focus explicitly on younger participants– most of whom will often have never had an encounter with the “other”– work to promote understanding across differences through dialogue and shared goals. So, what do these programs look like? Traditionally, they have often focused on bringing parties together, from both sides of a conflict, and creating opportunities for those parties to be heard. However, over the years, the landscape of people-to-people programming has radically transformed, inviting innovations, new techniques, and proven models into the space.

One compelling model that can be seen across ALLMEP’s membership is Sport for Peace. Sports programs are often the very first encounter that young Israelis and Palestinians have with each other. They often set those young people on a trajectory where the values of peace and equality– and the goal of conflict resolution– become core parts of their lives, and eventually their very identities as they progress into adulthood.

ALLMEP is excited to congratulate one of our members, Budo for Peace (BFP), on the creation of One Team – Sports for Social Change, a non-profit whose mandate is to use all sports and wellbeing programs to promote social cohesion, tolerance and peace in our region. Its first major project is to support a coalition of organizations working toward social justice through sports. Many of these organizations are ALLMEP members such as the Peres Center, Peace Players, Friendship League of Culture and Sport, Budo for Peace, Freddie Kirvine Tennis Initiative, and Special Olympics Israel. They’re joining hands with other organizations such as HaGal Sheli, The Equalizer, Haredim la-ketzev, and Value Sports who also have activities to bring together young Israelis and Palestinians around their shared love of sport. Sports organizations were one of the hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, cancelling programs completely for a year. The Sports for Peace coalition initiative will use shared knowledge, models and tools to prove the collective impact of the sport-for- peace community.  It is estimated that over 100,000 youth are involved in trust-building sport programs. ALLMEP is excited for this partnership, and seeing our members back out playing sports, and bringing young people together.

Sports for Social Change Chairman and ALLMEP Board Member, Danny Hakim, “Sport is a proven platform for a healthy Shared Society. There are over 30 sports for peace organizations in Israel that are using sport to build bridges between different communities. With more than 100,000 youth involved in these activities, the transformative power of sport has the potential to empower the next generation of doers, thinkers and builders of a more harmonious society”.

Photo Credit: Pini Sulik

Founded in 2004 by Danny Hakim, BFP assimilates Budo (traditional martial arts) values and their application inside and outside the Dojo (training hall)  to break down fear and build trust between Jewish, Arab, Bedouin, and Druze youth. The core values of courtesy, order, harmony, integrity, humility, self-control, responsibility, love for humanity, and respect are geared towards a more accepting global society. In 2018, BFP won NGO of the Year at the 2018 Peace and Sport Regional Forum held in Greece for “outstanding contribution to peace in the world using the power of sport.” BFP’s annual international seminars host 80 senseis (instructors) and 800 students, and over 3,000 youth have participated in BFP since its founding.

“Sport has transformational power for building trust,” Hakim explained. In martial arts specifically, respect for your opponent and harmony with yourself and others are crucial. Trust-building games and exercises help promote these values and are common among many peace-building initiatives using sports as a medium in Israel and Palestine. One Team – Sports for Social Change will be a powerful tool for change, and ALLMEP is excited to see where it leads.

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