When dreams become a reality
Tuesday, August 05 2008 @ 12:00 am ACST
Contributed by: Ash Nugent
An emotional email sent by Kevin Nafte, an Israeli member of the Peace Team that will take part in the 2008 International Cup can be read below. It helps an audience outside of the Israel/Palestine region understand the huge challenges faced in getting the Peace Team to Melbourne. But after reading the email, it's easy to see that it was well worth the effort.
In two and a half weeks, my Israeli and Palestinian team mates and I will be embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.
The last year has been without a doubt the most fascinating time of my life. I have just completed my MA degree in Government specializing in Counter Terrorism. Initially, my idea was to become an "expert" in the field of counter terrorism and get a job in the security industry. Now, I'm not really feeling that... As amazing as the course was, there was an element which bothered me throughout the course. The constant pessimism and negativity of learning to deal with the unlimited challenges which threaten our existence really got to me. Suicide bombers, nuclear war, chemical, biological and radiological weapons, government's inadequacy and constant failures were just a few of the topics which we focused on.
People keep telling me about these apocalyptic visions which they are having, especially in wake of a nuclear Iran threatening Israel's destruction. Yes, I agree - we cannot sit idly by while some raving lunatic incites mass genocide. We have seen this before and we should learn from our mistakes. However, I believe that this so called "apocalypse" which we are all so terrified by, can be the result of our own cynicism and negativity.
Why not take a look at all the wonderful things going on? Why do the media persist in showing us violence and war and instilling fear into the publics' minds? I recently read an article in the Jerusalem Post about all foreign journalists leaving the area because there was no more "violence and death". Apparently there is nothing to report about...
For me; counter terrorism is all about developing trust and understanding between one another. Educating the youth through non political means to forge relationships and conveying this message through the media to the rest of the world. Human beings have hope, however most people need pictures and evidence to believe in it.
So, I have attached a picture to this email for you all. It is a picture of a group of Israelis and Palestinians, who over the last 7 months have learnt to trust one another and have even built friendships between one another. These courageous men are the Peres Center's "Peace Team" who will compete in the International Cup in Melbourne in a just a few weeks time.
It is hard to describe to you how far this team has come over the last 7 months, but I’m gonna give it a bash.
I remember the first sessions vividly, Israelis sitting one side of the room and Palestinians sitting the other side, murmuring at the others expense, trying to understand this mad looking sport which was being shown on a TV. From then on, each week, the Israelis would trek from across the country while the Palestinians would have to pass through countless checkpoints to get to the training ground, which was situated in the magnificent Jerusalem forests, in the biblical Ella Valley.
As the players honed in on their skills, their wariness of their team mates began to subside. Arabic, Hebrew and English were all being spoken, however more sense and understanding was made by simply playing footy. The fact that none of these players had ever seen or heard of AFL football was always going to be a challenge, especially considering the lack of time. However, this was actually the least of our worries. Countless times, training had to be cancelled because the Palestinian Territories were shut down either due to George Bush being in town or terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. Not your everyday excuse for not pitching up to training ah…
One of the Palestinians who really enjoyed the game was forced to drop out as his family was threatened, because people suspected him of collaborating with Israel because he was always getting permission to go into Israel. Despite these obstacles, the Peace Team pushed on. When terrorists were firing rockets into Sderot and the IDF was operating in Gaza, an emotional rage transpired into a motivational force on the field: 120% was given by everyone. And after the two abducted soldiers were returned to Israel in coffins, everyone just kept on playing football with a renewed enthusiasm and spirit.
A few weeks ago, I spent the day in Jericho, the oldest and the lowest city in the world. Israelis are not permitted to enter there as it is a Palestinian controlled city. However, I used my Aussie passport and there were no worries. I was invited to one of my Palestinian team mate’s home for lunch. I hope both my Israeli and Palestinian team mates will one day be able to do this too. In fact, I’m pretty certain they will be.
The Peace Team will be arriving in Sydney on Thursday 21st August. We will be heading to Melbourne on Saturday 23rd. Our first game is on Wednesday 27th August at Royal Park North against Great Britain. Game starts at 1pm. We have another game against Papua New Guinea on Fri 29th August at 1 pm also at Royal Park North. Thereafter, we will be playing a couple of games in Warrnambool and then back in Melbourne.
For more information, check out our Facebook group.
Competition is going to be tough, but the Peace Team are fighters, with a little bit of heart and a renewed belief, there is not much they can’t do.