Israel has been in conflict ever since its declaration of state in 1948. Since then, the inhabitants of this small Middle Eastern country have seen seven wars, and attempts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been unsuccessful. Besides this ongoing, widely known conflict, the country faces many other challenges, including environmental issues and clashes between different cultural and religious groups.
Israel is one of the first countries where Play for Peace became active. Shortly after its founding in 1998, Play for Peace partnered with the Jerusalem International YMCA, working with mixed groups of Jewish and Arab children. While Play for Peace trainers visited many areas in the country, from Jerulsalem to Jericho, the next club was not initiated until 2014. Then, Sarah Gough and Craig Dobkin completed a 10-day training tour in Israel and Palestine, introducing Play for Peace to groups such as The Bedouin Girls Warm House Project, The Palestinian Center for Conflict Resolution in Jericho, a community group in Eilaboun, and a youth center and camp in Haifa. Another project with the organization Hand in Hand, an intentionally bi-cultural school, took place in 2016.
In 2017, a new club was formed in Galilee called Youth for Change Galilee with trainer and mentor Sa'eed Diabat. Their focus is on the environment, peace, and education, particularly for marginalized Arab youth from different faiths who live in the region.
“It is very important that different religions get involved with each other, so in the future we can avoid cases of racism from any side. Activities like the ones we are experiencing can help avoid misunderstandings because of differences.”
Play for Peace training workshop participant
Youth for Change Galilee Club
Since 2016, the Youth for Change Club in Israel has hosted cultural exchanges as a way to connect in person with youth from other cultures. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group had figure out a new way to engage with other youth that would bring them together while staying physically apart.
As the founder and a mentor of the Youth for Change Galilee Club in Israel, Sa’eed Diabat is an important part of the Play for Peace community. He also has an important story to tell.
Earlier this year, youth leaders from our clubs in Israel and Greece joined together to lead cooperative play sessions with Belarussian orphans through the organization Crete for Life. It was life changing for the youth leaders and children alike.