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Israeli boys spread message of unity in SA

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BENJI SHULMAN

Pictured:  Reyaad Pieterse with Gavi Ash during the football practice.

They are part of an initiative from the Peres Centre for Peace which focuses on Jewish, Arab and Palestinian dialogue projects.

The boys were brought out under the auspices of the Israel Centre and South African Zionist Federation under the banner of the Partnership2Gether programme that connects different communities around the Diaspora with regions in Israel.

The team had a full itinerary upon arrival, visiting various schools and doing a tour of Soweto, the Lion Park and Nelson Mandela’s house. The highlight, however, was the “Unity though Sport” soccer tournament held at Discovery Park. 

The event, organised in conjunction with the South African Friends of Israel, brought together a variety of boys’ soccer teams from around Gauteng. The teams were from diverse backgrounds and included 128 participants from the Lebanese, Portuguese, Jewish, Christian and Africa diaspora communities as well as from local schools, social development programmes and Maccabi. The aim was to bring together all the boys with the goal of promoting unity through sport.   

The opening included a variety of dignitaries including the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation Ben Swartz, Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Ayelet Black and Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein.

The biggest attraction of the day, however, was the two SuperSport United and Bafana Bafana stars who arrived to give training tips to the teams. They included Dean Furman who is a previous captain of the national squad and Reyaad Pieterse who is the current goalkeeper. They also happen to be Jewish and Muslim respectively, adding an extra level of symbolism to the message of the day.

After introductions and a training session by the players, the teams got the opportunity to play mini matches against one another. Befitting the spirit of the event, there was no “winner” but all delegations received a medal and certificate of participation from Aviad Sela, director of the Israel Centre. 

After the event, the team continued on its journey to Cape Town where they will be visiting the community there and playing another tournament.

Gavi Sacks, executive director of South African Friends of Israel, said: “These sorts of events are an integral part of our work promoting a positive image of Israel to the broader community and are beneficial for everyone involved.”

He said this was the second such team to visit South Africa and he hoped that many others like it would be organised in the future.   

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