Israeli and Palestinian children in Japan for football and friendship

September 04, 2003

CONTENTS

1. Israeli and Palestinian children in Japan for football and friendship (The Scotsman, August 23, 2003)
2. Argentine Football Association President calls for an end to discrimination against Israel in international football
3. Israel OKs Status of 'Black Hebrews'. Follows campaign by Whitney Houston and others. One 'Black Hebrew' shot dead by gunmen from Arafat and Abu Mazen's Fatah (AP, July 29, 2003)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is one of six emails I am sending today, detailing recent "human interest" stories from Israel. In this email, there are three articles, with summaries first:

1. "Israeli and Palestinian children in Japan for football and friendship" (The Scotsman, August 23, 2003). "Violence may be escalating in Israel and Palestine but children from both sides found friendship on a Japanese football [soccer] field yesterday. For 22 children - 11 from Israel and 11 from Palestine - sport won over politics as they and Japanese children struggled for control of footballs in the steamy summer heat. "It was fun and I feel very happy that we played together," said Tzah Ben-Menechem, an 11-year-old Israeli boy... The effort is the brainchild of Daitetsu Koike, a Buddhist monk and president of Takasaki University of Art and Music north of Tokyo, who, inspired by the universal nature of football, decided to bring the children over from their homelands. "All children play soccer, and through this they could communicate," he said."

2. Argentine Football [soccer] Association (AFA) President to Wiesenthal Centre: "I Urge FIFA to Reject and Repudiate All Forms of Discrimination of the State of Israel in International Football." AFA President Julio Grondona apologized for any antisemitic insinuation he had made in his recent claim that "there were no Jewish referees in Argentine football as Jews did not like difficult work." Declaring remorse, Grondona agreed to invoke his Position as First Vice-President of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) and Chairman of its Budget Committee, to ensure equal treatment for the Israeli Football Association (IFA) within the international federation. Grondona proceeded to address a letter to FIFA President Joseph Blatter, stating that, "in view of concern that the Sister State of Israel might suffer any form of discrimination, AFA, loyal to its unalterable tradition, repudiates and rejects the slightest such display or insinuation." There was intense pressure last season from Arab Associations to expel Israel from FIFA.

[Tom Gross adds: Israeli football teams continue to suffer some forms of discrimination among governing officials in international football, not only in Asia but in Europe, even though Israeli teams have improved their standing and playing ability on the field in recent years. A number of Israelis also now play for European club teams. David Beckham, too, who many regard as the world's best footballer, has recently repeatedly declared great pride in his part-Jewish roots.]

3. "Israel OKs Status of 'Black Hebrews'" (Associated Press, July 29, 2003). Israel's "Black Hebrews," a close-knit group of vegan polygamists who arrived in the country from the United States in 1969, are celebrating the Israeli government's announcement that they are finally eligible for citizenship. In the desert town of Dimona in southern Israel, home to about 1,500 Black Hebrews, there was a feeling Monday that a 34-year history of statelessness was coming to an end with news of their permanent resident status. "There's going to be a lot of dancing, singing, shouting and eating," said former Chicagoan Adiv Ben-Yehuda, 50, a former college basketball player with two wives and 12 children. "It's the greatest day since the community arrived in Israel." Other members of the 2,500-strong group live in Arad and Mitzpeh Ramon, other towns in Israel's south. Believing that African-Americans are one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, Ben Ammi and his followers set out - first for Liberia in West Africa; then, their numbers diminished, for Israel in 1969... Two Black Hebrew singers represented Israel in the annual Eurovision song festival in 1999. Another singer was killed in a Palestinian shooting attack at a Jewish family celebration in the Israeli city of Hadera on January 17, 2002... politician Jesse Jackson campaigned for them to receive Israeli citizenship, and singer Whitney Houston visited them this May... Their children grow up speaking Hebrew. Several are at Israeli universities.

 



FULL STORIES

ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN CHILDREN IN JAPAN FOR FOOTBALL AND FRIENDSHIP

Israeli and Palestinian children in Japan for football and friendship
By Midoriko Morita and Elaine Lies in Tokyo
The Scotsman
August 23, 2003

Violence may be escalating in Israel and Palestine but children from both sides found friendship on a Japanese football field yesterday.

For 22 children - 11 from Israel and 11 from Palestine - sport won over politics as they and Japanese children struggled for control of footballs in the steamy summer heat. "It was fun and I feel very happy that we played together," said Tzah Ben-Menechem, an 11-year-old Israeli boy.

Others, such as his nine-year-old compatriot, Ryan Whbee, had more complicated feelings. "This is the first time that I meet them. I play with them, it's not easy," he said. "But when we play and meet each other, we began to feel more easy."

Four mixed teams of Israelis, Palestinians and Japanese played two games as part of a week-long programme to promote Middle East peace at the grassroots level.

The effort is the brainchild of Daitetsu Koike, a Buddhist monk and president of Takasaki University of Art and Music north of Tokyo, who, inspired by the universal nature of football, decided to bring the children over from their homelands.

"All children play soccer, and through this they could communicate," he said. "It's now become hard for both Israelis and Palestinians to think about peace at home."

The week-long programme of football matches, camping, concerts and stays with Japanese families was paid for by donations from Japanese individuals.

Against the background of renewed violence at home, it was clear that changing things might be difficult. But to those taking part, the troubles underscored the real importance of what they were trying to accomplish.

"It is very important today, what we are having here," said Waleed Siam, ambassador at the Mission of Palestine in Japan.

"They take back to their own societies how important [it is] that we have to shake hands and have peace."

 

ARGENTINE FA URGES FIFA TO REJECT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ISRAEL

[Simon Wiesenthal Center Press release]

Argentine Football Association President to Wiesenthal Centre: "I Urge FIFA to Reject and Repudiate All Forms of Discrimination of the State of Israel in International Football"

Buenos Aires
July 25, 2003

A Wiesenthal Centre Delegation composed of Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Director of International Liaison Dr. Shimon Samuels and Latin American Representative Sergio Widder, met with Argentine Football Association (AFA) President, Julio Grondona.

Grondona apologized for any antisemitic insinuation he had made in a Recent statement. The Centre had protested his claim that "there were no Jewish referees in Argentine football as Jews did not like difficult work."

Declaring remorse for any offence, Grondona agreed to invoke his Position as First Vice-President of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) and Chairman of its Budget Committee, to ensure equal treatment for the Israeli Football Association (IFA) within the international federation.

Grondona proceeded to address a letter, in the name of AFA, to FIFA President Joseph Blatter, stating that, "in view of concern that the Sister State of Israel might suffer any form of discrimination, AFA, loyal to its unalterable tradition, repudiates and rejects the slightest such display or insinuation."

There was intense pressure last season from Arab Associations to expel Israel from FIFA.

Grondona's letter continued, "my position, and that of the entire AFA executive, has always backed an anti-discriminatory policy. Football promotes an unrestrictive and full union among people... without differences of race, skin colour, religion or flag."

In a separate letter, Grondona responded to Dr. Samuels' proposal that "Red Card Against Racism" campaigns in Europe to contain football-related violence be applied to Latin America. Grondona committed the AFA to "a programme promoting tolerance and coexistence in the football community to focus on youth," in cooperation with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

 

ISRAEL OK'S STATUS OF 'BLACK HEBREWS'

Israel OKs Status of 'Black Hebrews'
By Jill Lawless
The Associated Press
July 29, 2003

DIMONA, Israel - Israel's "Black Hebrews," a close-knit group of vegan polygamists who arrived in the country from the United States in 1969, are celebrating the government's announcement that they are finally eligible for citizenship in the Jewish state.

In the desert town of Dimona in southern Israel, home to about 1,500 Black Hebrews, there was a feeling Monday that a 34-year history of statelessness was coming to an end with news of their permanent resident status.

"There's going to be a lot of dancing, singing, shouting and eating," said former Chicagoan Adiv Ben-Yehuda. "It's the greatest day since the community arrived in Israel."

Other members of the 2,500-strong group live in Arad and Mitzpeh Ramon, other towns in Israel's south.

As permanent residents, members will be able to serve in the Israeli army and establish their own residential communities, an Interior Ministry statement said. Ministry spokeswoman Tova Ellinson said that under normal practice, permanent resident status would lead to full citizenship after an unspecified period of time.

"We're ready to take on responsibilities and obligations as permanent members of the community," said Ben-Yehuda, 50, a former college basketball player with two wives and 12 children. His American drawl is undimmed after 30 years in Israel.

The exodus from Chicago of the Black Hebrews - the self-styled African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem - is one of the stranger odysseys of the 1960s.

About 350 black Americans left the United States in 1967 as followers of Ben Carter, a Chicago bus driver who changed his name to Ben Ammi Ben-Israel after receiving, he said, a visitation from the angel Gabriel informing him he was God's representative on Earth.

Believing that African-Americans are one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, Ben Ammi and his followers set out - first for Liberia in West Africa; then, their numbers diminished, for Israel in 1969.

The group's members dress in colorful, self-made clothes, practice polygamy, shun birth control, and refrain from eating meat, dairy products, eggs and sugar.

The new arrivals met with skepticism and bafflement from many Israelis. A succession of Israeli interior ministers resisted upgrading the Black Hebrews' status as temporary residents, with limited legal and civil rights.

Arriving in Israel on tourist visas, they lived through the 1970s and 1980s unrecognized by the government as Jews and occasionally deported by the dozen after their visas expired.

Housed in a huddle of bungalows in a former immigrant reception center in Dimona - a poverty-stricken town in the Negev desert - the Black Hebrews persevered. They established businesses in crafts and tailoring, formed a respected gospel choir, started a factory producing tofu ice cream and set up several vegan restaurants.

Several members made headlines. Two Black Hebrew singers represented Israel in the annual Eurovision song festival in 1999. Another singer was killed in a Palestinian shooting attack at a Jewish family celebration in the Israeli city of Hadera on January 17, 2002.

"The original group is still here, and we've been able to teach the next generation how to govern themselves," said 64-year-old Prince Elkanann, one of the 1969 arrivals.

"I'm satisfied with the choices I've made," said Elkanann, who like other members of his community gave up his American name and his U.S. passport after joining the group. "Anything you want, you have to sacrifice for."

Over the years, the group has accumulated high-profile supporters - politician Jesse Jackson campaigned for them to receive Israeli citizenship, and singer Whitney Houston visited them this May.

In 1990, the group was given temporary resident status - allowing them to receive social benefits and government support for their 600-pupil school and other facilities - on condition no more members of the group came form the United States.

The group's members insist they want to play a full part in Israeli society. Their children grow up speaking Hebrew and American-accented English. Several are at Israeli universities.

The community has outgrown the cramped bungalows of their original home, and hopes to move next year to a newly built neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Their new status allows them to solve their housing crisis by building their own village if they choose.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.