JERUSALEM – Ramadan ended last week, the summer heat is upon us and history tells us that Jerusalem becomes an even more difficult place when the temperature rises. From the checkpoints to violence in the streets to religious claims over mosques and the Wailing Wall, the summer seems to serve as a stark reminder to the local people of their current plight. Three summers ago, war raged on, there were the last two deaths, arrests, kidnappings and entire neighbourhoods were closed off for weeks.
That’s why when summer comes around in Beit Zafafa, we’re more acutely aware of the unique work Inter Campus does in the region. Indeed, there’s nothing better than the final event which this year saw the Inter Campus Jerusalem kids take each other on at mini Olympics. It was amazing to see their parents play together, Israelis and Palestinians on mixed teams running excitedly after the ball and calling out in their respective languages.
The kids behaved better than usual, showing great commitment in the activities, and that might have had something to do with the exemplary behaviour of their parents on the other side of the pitch. Ali saw his dad Hassan playing with Sebastian and Ariel and so played in turn with Octavio and Gavriel. After two years of hard work, Inter Campus have laid strong foundations in Beit Zafafa. It’s a mixed centre where Jews and Arabs, along with their parents, play together and there is always a big round of applause whenever a child receives a certificate of participation. They forget their differences and instead ask when the new season will begin.
With the help of local partner Ghetton and the support of the UEFA Foundation, Inter Campus would like to continue to give these kids the prospect of a future where they can live in harmony together. The hope is that one day Ali and Octavio can show their own children how sport can break down barriers. One important example of this is the new Inter Campus Jerusalem girls’ team which is challenging a very male-dominated society. Playing football with Inter Campus offers girls in Beit Zafafa a first chance to exert their strength, intelligence and independence. It means teaching, educating and convincing them if necessary that just as their older brother Ahmad comes home from training pleased that he’s improved one aspect of his game or scored twice in training, so too can they make progress. Organising girls’ football in Beit Zafafa is not only about educating young women about their bodies and motor skills but it’s spreading to everyone around this new exciting team. The boys who train alongside them are excited, just as parents are to see their daughters wearing the black and blue of Inter.
A day earlier in the Elifelet neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, more than 30 boys and girls celebrated the end of the Inter Campus season. Many of the children involved in the project at the Droyanov school are immigrants and refugees but thanks to Inter Campus they played together and became more integrated together with their families. Integration really is the watchword for Inter Campus in a special place ravaged by division.