The Peace Team in Sydney

August 11, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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The AFL Peace team, 12 Israeli Jews and 12 Palestinian have arrived in Sydney to a busy first 24…a Harbour Bridge Climb and a welcoming breakfast.

Peace Team summits Sydney Harbour Bridge pic: Jonathan Davis

The team, the realisation of Sydney’s Tanya Oziel, makes its second to visit to Australia having competed in the 2008  AFL International Cup.

Tanya Oziel

Tanya Oziel and Governor Marie Bashir

Oziel told J-Wire that seven members of the 2008 squad have returned in 2011 to play matches in Sydney and Melbourne

In Sydney, the team shared a breakfast with NSW Governor Marie Bashir who showed personal enthusiasm for the initiative.

The Peace Team is in part the joint initiative of the Yafo-based Peres Centre for Peace and the Ramallah-based Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue. The Centre’s Sydney representative John Weiss welcomed to the team who arrived singing a song of peace at the breakfast function held in a harbourside restaurant.

Weiss told the breakfast meeting that the team of 24 had Christian, Muslim and Jewish members from cities and villages, with different languages…some religious and some secular divided by borders both physical and mental. He said: “They are young men who feel the political process does not speak for them.” He said they will be playing against countries with 20-30 years experience in AFL and yet some members of the Peace Team “had never been on a plane”.

Palestinian players had to go through the checkpoint process every week to enter Israel for training. Weiss added that on the field there was no religion and stereotypes were left behind. “The field was their leveller”.

Weiss lauded praise on Tanya Oziel whose dream it was to establish the Peace Team and the AFL’s Robert “Dipper” PierDominico who had injected “spirit and energy” into the Peace Team.

“AFL is only the game where shepherding is allowed…where you can protect your team mate legally…so we have Israelis and Palestinians protecting each other on the footy field.”

Henry Jolson

Robert Magid

Team Ambassador Henry Jolson introduced a DVD of the team’s preparation in Israel. He said the Team was here “to play football…and to win”. He acknowledged the assistance of the AFL in the preparation of the team. Jolson added: “The Team want to prove that Israelis and Palestinians can live together and play together.”

Host Robert Magid made the analogy of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge under which the function room nestled with the bridge to be built between Israelis and Palestinians. “Eventually that bridge will be built,” he said. “It has already taken decades, but one should not despair.”

Governor Marie Bashir said: “It’s very hard for me to speak because my eyes keep filling with tears…tears of hope, tears of pride. What you are doing is courageous and noble and is setting an example for communities all over the world.” The Governor delved into her personal history telling the breakfast meeting how her father, a doctor from Lebanon, had come to Sydney on a visit and stayed having met the woman who was to become the Governor’s mother. She went on to say that, at school, she had met the children of Jewish refugees from Europe and how they had changed her life by showing how cruel people could be to one another.”

Addressing the Team she said: “You wonderful young men, inspired by this noble cause, are setting an example to people everywhere. I want to thank you on behalf of all the people of NSW. On behalf of all the people of Australia. It’s a wonderful journey of peace…and love. It’s about loving one another. We are all a small family on this little planet. It is a privilege to be associated with this.”

One of the highlights of the breakfast was Robert “Dipper” PierDominico telling the story of the competition and interviewing two of the players

Watch and listen to Dipper

 

Ambassador Abdulhadi with the Team

Tania Oziel said that the first Peace Team was something “that had to happen”. My inspiration comes from the boys. It’s such a commitment for the Palestinians  to be part of the Team. It takes courage. She said; “This team was put through an eight hour session with mediators which saw them at the end of the session take to the streets of Jerusalem together singing as one unit.”  Andrew Demitrou told the National Press Club that the Peace Team was one of his proudest moments in his time as CEO of the AFL.

Dipper and the Boot

John Weiss, Izzat Abdulhadi and the Team

She said: “This story started with my son. He told me one day he wanted to play AFL. He joined a team in Maroubra. A Jewish boy, in a Jewish bubble. AFL opened his world. And that is what inspired the Peace Team.”

She presented the Governor with a pair of the Team’s football boots and revealed the Peace Team’s jersey which also gave to the Governor.

A strip was also presented to breakfast host, Robert Magid.

The head of the General Delegation of Palestine Ambassador Azzat Abdulhadi wished the Team good results. He said that a lot of lessons had been learned from joint projects. He emphasised his hopes for a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict saying that he hoped Israel and Palestine could coexist together in peace.

The Peres Center for Peace encourages Israeli-Palestinian joint ventures in commerce, the Arts…and sport.

Comments

2 Responses to “The Peace Team in Sydney”
  1. Maree says:

    Paul Winter’s letter started out so well before he reverted to the all too common sentiments that all the Palestinian citizens “worship death and rejoice in the pain and sorrow of others”. These statements are not only wrong, they are racist and bigoted, and should be condemned by any reasonable human being.
    “Whining about checkpoints” is ignorant, and shows a lack of any understanding of what many ordinary Palestinians have to go through every day just to make a living for their families. This attitude also shows a lack of humanity for those who suffer this daily abuse by the Israeli system.
    I think that Tanya Oziel’s Peace Team initiative is fantastic, and whilst only involving small numbers of people from both side, should be applauded. I hope that she can build on this and bring many more young people from both sides together where they can interact and learn about each other.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    It is truly inspiring to read about the cooperation, the comeraderie, the affection and the team spirit that flow from the peace team. It shows what could be done. It shows as well that this spirit of warmth and seeiing the humanity of the other is but a tiny flickering beam in an ocean of hate and darkness. He who thinks that this is the dawn of a new age needs to wake up and weep for what could be but will not occur. An Arab mohammedan leadership that denies that Jews are a people with the right to self-determination, which wages war on it and plays dirty games – disregarding laws of humanity, of war and even of the Koran – is not one that will be changed by the rules of AFL. A leadership and a people who worship death and rejoice in the pain and sorrow of the other – Jews – are not partners for peace. Nor are those who whine about checkpoints set up to prevent the murderers on missions the mohammedan society regards as holy – shahids – true ambassadors of peace.

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