August 18, 2023

The Bedouin-Jewish Summer Camp Making Waves in Israeli Media

The Bedouin-Jewish Summer Camp Making Waves in Israeli Media

OneTeam Camp is the first camp in Israel that brings together Bedouin and Jewish girls into a shared space, through their love of sport. Over the summer, for its second year, the camp has emerged as a powerful microcosm of shared society. A history of prejudice and misunderstanding over land rights have contributed to a strained relationship between Bedouin and Jewish communities, which has sadly grown more acute in recent years with spates of intercommunal violence. Against this backdrop, the OneTeam Camp has emerged as a beacon of positive change.

An initiative by SSI, the Azrieli Foundation’s Sports for Social Impact program, and operated by ORT Kadima Mada, OneTeam Camp brought together 50 girls aged 13-15. With equal representation between each community, the camp fostered an inclusive environment. The absence of mobile phones encouraged genuine interactions, allowing the girls to engage in meaningful conversations and share experiences. Through a diverse range of sports activities, workshops, lectures, and joint outings, participants learn about each other’s cultures and traditions, and challenges and perceptions.

But the program didn’t just demonstrate the power of grassroots efforts to affect individuals. Its story of girls bridging this notorious intercommunal divide was also picked up all over Israeli media, including in print, online, and on radio media such as Maariv, Walla!, Mako, 103fm, Kan Radio Arabic, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, i24NEWS, and perhaps most importantly, on Israel’s Channel 13 television channel. Such exposure to hundreds of thousands of Israelis works to chip away at the ingrained public perception of Jewish-Bedouin interactions as inherently negative, instead portraying an alternative in 3-D on how they can form bonds of mutual trust and win-win cooperation. It demonstrates how seemingly modest sports programs can wield a profound impact on the broader narrative of Jewish-Bedouin, and foreseeably Israeli-Palestinian, relations. 

An interview with Shams Abu Kaf, a participant of the camp, sheds light on the transformative impact of OneTeam. She explains that the camp not only helps improve her Hebrew language skills but also facilitates conversations about each other’s backgrounds. The camp instills in the girls the belief that diversity is a source of strength—experiences that the youth participants bring back to their friends and family

This ripple effect of shared society into the broader community was seen last year when the families of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Abu Queidar invited the parents of the Jewish participants, including some from communities with typically hardline positions on policies pertaining to Bedouin, for a visit, meal and facilitated discussion on the political issues dividing them. OneTeam will organize more alumni events, both for the families of the recent cohort and of the growing camp alumni overall in order to keep the program graduates engaged and moving forward on their journey of understanding of the other side.

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