AFL Peace Team – on Their Way

August 8, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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The AFL Peace Team, 12 Israelis and 12 Palestinians, leaves Israel today for Australia to compete in the AFL International Cup.

In training

Despite the many difficulties this team has faced, not knowing each other, not knowing the sport, and not speaking the same language, the determination of each and every team member has kept them motivated as they head to Australia in the name of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

This unique Israeli-Palestinian Peace Team, run by the Peres Center for Peace and Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue, will compete in the AFL International Cup in Sydney and Melbourne from August 12-27, against teams from 17 different countries around the world. The team will be coached in Australia by AFL legend Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico.

In 2008, the Peres Center for Peace, in cooperation with its Australian Chapter, created the first joint Palestinian-Israeli AFL Peace Team. The team, from Israel and the West Bank and aged 18-35, was such a great success that with the keen support of the Australian Chapter of the Peres Center, the second Israeli-Palestinian AFL Peace Team returns to Australia to continue spreading the message of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and dialogue through sport and to show the world that such teamwork is not only desirable but also possible. Brett Kirk, the AFL Ambassador who travelled to Israel to coach the team, commented, “To think of what’s happening in this country at the moment, it takes a lot of courage to do what they’re doing.”

The team has been training since January and participating in moderated dialogue sessions as part of the process of getting to know each other. Led by two ex-pat Aussies, who have volunteered to coach the mixed team, and supported by an Israeli Team Manager and a Palestinian Team Manager who coordinate with the respective players, the team has many barriers to overcome – learning the game, communicating despite the two different languages and making it to training – which for the Palestinians means getting permits and passing checkpoints.

The team’s participation in the International Cup in 2008 generated much media attention in Australia and Israel, and the team’s return has created massive interest in Australia. The participation of a second Israeli-Palestinian Peace Team in the AFL International Cup will demonstrate to Australia and to the world that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, can and do continue to work together to reach their common goals. Moreover, the experiences of the Palestinian and Israeli players will have a lasting effect on these young men, preparing them to serve as ambassadors of peace in their local communities.

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