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Jaffa Gate to host Jewish-Arab penalty shootout during World Cup

  • TOIWorldCup
This summer, while millions of people worldwide will be watching the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Jews and Arabs will come together in Jerusalem’s Old City for a special event that will see the famous Jaffa Gate transformed into a soccer goalpost, with organisers aiming to get a world-class goalkeeper to participate.
by MICHAEL BACHNER | Mar 29, 2018

Kulna, a non-governmental organisation which has been holding Jewish-Arab backgammon tournaments in Israel’s capital for the past year, said on Wednesday it was trying to build on that success to advance coexistence between the city’s embattled populations.

World Cup matches are to be screened on the Old City walls in July, with Jews and Arabs invited to watch together.

But the centrepiece of the initiative will be a penalty shootout in which members of local Jewish and Arab youth soccer teams will try to kick the ball into Jaffa Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City.

Kulna is trying to bring an internationally renowned goalkeeper to headline the event, and has focused on five famous players: Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Spain’s Iker Casillas, Germany’s Oliver Kahn, Denmark’s Peter Schmeichel and France’s Fabien Barthez.

While the NGO said it is in talks with some of the “legendary” goalies, none have yet announced they will attend the event. Kulna has launched a website for the project, which it has named “Goals and Gates 2018”. It has called on the public to help the organisation get the goalies’ attention.

Alongside other attempts to reach the goalies, the Jewish-Arab organisation plans to rally after the Passover festival next to the Jerusalem consulates of their respective countries.

The organisers said the event will be held even if they fail to get a world-class player to participate.

The shootout will be the culmination of a larger tournament involving Jewish and Arab youth teams from the Jerusalem area. A penalty tournament will be held beforehand, possibly in a field in the Old City’s Armenian Quarter. The winners of that contest will compete in the final shootout at Jaffa Gate.

“Our goal is to take an event that unites the world and has become a symbol of fraternity between nations, the soccer World Cup, and use it to create bonds between Jewish and Arab youth in Israel,” said Kulna’s Dror Amedi.

“Jaffa Gate, which usually gives connotations of war and violence, will be transformed into a soccer goal, a symbol of global comradeship.”

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