A fight for peace and harmony

May 29, 2016 by Danny Hakim
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Headlines from the Middle East rarely feature what I believe to be one of the most important stories around: the fight for peace and harmony in a region fraught with tensions…writes Danny Hakim.

A karate demonstration in Herzliya by a mixed Jewish and Arab group

A karate demonstration in Herzliya by a mixed Jewish and Arab group

Although this fight involves Arabs and Jews, both in Israel and across the region, sadly, it is not the successes in the fight for coexistence that draws international attention, let alone major headlines, but instead only the violence and failures.

I am now writing from the quiet of the Negev desert watching the glowing embers of a campfire. No wireless connection, no cell phone. Switched off from our world but switched on to another reality, one where all the senses are reset and a sharpened awareness of the basics and priorities of life appears. Around the fire are international martial arts masters from Senegal, Japan, Israel, Jordan and Australia. We are with the local Bedouin karate club sharing graceful movements and brutal killing techniques like aboriginal elders at a corroboree dancing the dreamtime. However these self-defense techniques are used to build self-confidence in children and for confidence-building between people.

After two exhaustive days of sweating and sharing Asian, African and Israeli Krav maga techniques, I see that we can win the battle for the hearts and minds of Arab, Christian, Moslem and Jewish children living in this conflict zone.

Hazem, Danny Hakim, Mieko and Robeen

Hazem, Danny Hakim, Mieko and Robeen

I founded Budo for Peace 12 years ago as an educational organisation that promotes values such as respect, integrity, self-discipline and harmony through special educational programs and martial arts training.  Today, over 500 children take part through our affiliate clubs across the country, many of whom come from the geographic and social periphery.  Through our work and through our Friendship Trainings, like the one this past week, we break down ignorance and fear and build bridges between people and communities.

Despite the plethora of discouraging headlines from our region, I’m not alone at fighting for an alternative reality, one of peace and harmony. Through my work with Budo for Peace, I feel more optimistic than ever that we can win this battle, if we all join forces.

My optimism grew this week as over 300 children and adults from Budo for Peace affiliate clubs across the country came together for our annual Friendship Training Session held on the stunning beaches of Herzliya and supported by the Herzilya municipality.  Donning in crisp white suits and a wide range of colorful belts, enthusiastic children from Abu Kwedar to Raanana; from Yokneum to Baka Al Garbia; and from Jisser Azarka to Kiryat Gat, learned new techniques and showcased their skills with much confidence and pride.

The group in the desert in Abu-Quidar

The group in the desert in Abu-Quidar

This small strip of the Mediterranean coast transformed into an arena of co-existence, hope and an enormous amount of fun.  In a region fraught with discord, Budo for Peace’s goal is to be an innovator of co-existence, bringing diverse cultural, ethnic, social economic and religious groups in Israel and the Middle East together, in a spirit of tolerance and trust building.

My 40 years in martial arts training from my birth place Australia to learning under some of the most respected Senseis (teachers) in Japan, exposed me to the important role that martial arts, in existence for thousands of years and created to ensure stable and safe societies, can have on building bridges.  So why not put it to use in one of the regions that need it most…the Middle East?

I’m proud that our annual event, which drew martial arts enthusiasts of all ages and religions: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins.   With the stunning Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop, beach-side sessions were conducted for children and adults by a delegation of world-renowned martial arts experts from Japan, Jordan, Senegal, Australia and Israel for beginners and for advanced martial arts practitioners alike.  We had sessions conducted by a Senegalese Taekwondo Olympian,  a Japanese master from the Japan Karate Association and a number of Israeli and Jordanian teachers from different styles of martial arts.  Unfortunately, due to technical travel difficulties the president of Jordan’s Martial Arts Federation for World Peace and former instructor to the Dubai police and the Royal Family of Dubai, could not attend in person this year as he did last year.

HE Ambassador of Japan Koji Tomita joined us  sharing with the crowd that: “Budo is not just about being strong and defeating your enemies.  It’s not just about the techniques. It is a code of conduct and a way of life. Key to this way of life is self-discipline, courtesy and compassion for others.  So it is entirely appropriate that Budo for Peace is empowering young people and promote mutual understanding between people through Budo.”

In attendance were partner organizations from ALLMEP that focus on building bridges in the region through sports and recreation.  Participating organisations include organizations from Football, Basketball, Squash , Tennis, Frisbee and Kayaking.

Now in the unrecognised village of Abu Quidar, the moon sheds light across our desert dojo (training area) and I see the Bedouin tents and corrugated iron sheds in the distance. Here, and this week show that the mission of Budo for Peace and other sport and peace organisations are grounded with the strength and resilience needed to cultivate trust and friendships.

The millions of stars above us that play testimony to the fighting in our region are also observing the connections and positive energy created tonight between people.

If only the media and world could see and focus on us; – people from seemingly unrelated countries – Jordan, Japan, Senegal, Israel and Australia and children from different ethnic and religious backgrounds- orthodox and liberal Jews, secular Arabs, Muslims, Christian’s, Druze, Bedouins, Ethiopians and Russians, all creating deep bonds between kindred spirits.

Imagine what a powerful community we would have if all organizations united and elevated the scale of these events-millions of people dedicated to fighting for peace and harmony in our region could succeed.

But is this really a story worth hearing about?

You tell me!

I don’t think the media will.

Danny Hakim, a two-time world Karate silver medalist and philanthropist, is both the Founder and Chairman of Budo for Peace. 

Budo for Peace, founded in 2004, is the translation of his vision to create a society in which socially constructed rivals can conquer their cultural, social and political differences through the universal language of sport.

Sydney-raised Danny Hakim received Karate lessons  as a Bar Mitzvah gift from his grandmother. He was a former Australian Jewish Sportsman of the year and has been appointed Chairman of the Martial Arts for next year’s Maccabiah Games. He is chairman of Kids Kicking Cancer in Israel and lives in Ra’anana Israel,


2 Responses to “A fight for peace and harmony”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    I’m sure Danny Hakim would feel as disappointed as I was with the recent words of the Vatican cardinal leader of the ecumenical relations and interfaith promoter.

  2. Robert Kohn says:

    Kol Hakavod to Danny Hakim.
    What a fantastic iniative.
    Imagine the power to promote
    Peace and harmony.

    The possibilities are endless.

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