Training is scheduled for 14:00, the sun is hot, the soil white and the streets deserted. Only the youngsters from Inter Campus are out, the girls come out from school while there’s a donkey in the courtyard of a dilapidated house. The adults are at work, in Israel. The children arrive on their own to the pitch in a small village on the West Bank. After a small group arrive on time, the rest follow bit-by-bit. The coaches greet those they already know and welcome the new faces while reminding everybody of the importance of following the rules and timetable. They are then split into small groups and the party can begin! There are a series of exercises to make them run, jump, give and receive the ball. They start off eagerly chasing after the ball and stop with smiles on their faces as they catch their breath back. Two hours fly by and it’s already time for the final group photo. We return in Bouma’s car, he’s a dear friend of our project who has helped us to arrive in Palestine, taken us to Tel Aviv in his car and when in Jerusalem with the Tel Aviv and Beit Safafa children, he helped the Palestinian children to get the permits needed to pass through the checkpoints.
The children are also extremely relaxed about what time they arrive to the small pitch in Jerusalem…It’s how things are in these places! They’re often accompanied by their parents who take an interest in the project. In Beit Safafa, the Jewish Israeli children and Muslim Arab children play together. The parents took one another on at the same pitch last year and they can’t wait for the rematch. Thanks to the parents, integration is continuing with good results, especially in terms of mutual respect. In the past on the same pitch in Tel Aviv, Israeli children and refugees would play and arguments were rather common but on this occasion there was only a healthy display of competition and fun on the pitch.