Location and general information
The poorest city in Israel, Jerusalem is a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with hardly any positive contact between the two populations. A lack of communication is significant in the sports sector.
Arab children and teenagers in Jerusalem desperately need improved formal and informal education, as well as leisure activities and proper facilities.
Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem (HKJFC) feels that if their work can make a difference in Jerusalem it must be possible everywhere else, including in areas with less tension.
The Neighbourhoods League project is run in the greater Jerusalem area and shows the marginalised Jewish and Arab children from the east and west of the city a different reality that radiates potency, professionalism, optimism, joy and hope.
Most Jewish youngsters taking part in the project also come from poor neighbourhoods. They need help overcoming their prejudices, stereotypes and alienation from Arabs. Gender-wise, HKJFC are a pioneer in girls' and women's football and have the only female team in the city. The club obliges any school that joins the project with a boys' group to also set up a girls’ group. HKJFC’s teen girls have just won the national girls’ cup.
In addition to the female players in its professional, recreational and community programmes, the club promotes female coaches, managers and employees who also serve as role models. HKJFC is the first and only professional football club in Israel with an elected female chair and the only football club in Jerusalem, and one of the few in Israel, to employ female coaches. In the Neighbourhoods League we require any school that wishes to enrol its boys' team in our programme to set up a girls' team as well.
- Bring children from different religions, nationalities and backgrounds together, in order to break down walls and stigmas
- Use football to promote values such as: tolerance, anti-violence, anti-racism and women’s empowerment
- Give children from underprivileged backgrounds a better education and high-quality sports activities
- Promote women’s football in Jerusalem
Learning centres: The club has set up unique learning centres within schools, holding 80 meetings annually. Each week, before practice, these Neighbourhoods League learning centres hold sessions to further the children’s learning skills. With the help of the learning centre staff and volunteers, the youngsters work on their homework, with an emphasis on maths, science and English. Sometimes the children utilise the time to work on a specifically requested subject or task. The centre also includes social activities, to enable the children to work better as a group, become friends and overcome problems that occur during practice.
Football training: Two football practices geared at children aged 9–14 are held each week during the October–June school year. The teams, each with its own coach, enable children to play organised football, learn skills and improve their fitness, as well as consolidate social skills. There are no try-outs: all children are welcome to take part.
Festive tournaments: Regular festive tournaments encourage fair play and sportsmanship. Each month, all the girls’ teams and all the boys’ teams take part in festive tournaments. Games are played simultaneously and have no referees – it is up to the participants to sort out their differences by themselves, which changes the whole perspective. The tournaments bring children from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and religions together, with the common language of football.
One-on-one sessions: The core essence of HKJFC’s P2P approach. Our decade of binational activities has taught us that a substantial amount of time needs to be devoted to additional face-to-face work with binational teams. Rather than playing Arabs against Jews, the teams are mixed and play games together. This is in addition to taking part in the league.
The project invests a major effort in directly addressing and reducing conflict between the Arabs and Jews of Jerusalem. Its 750 children, 30 coaches, 20 volunteers and 10 tutors are being trained in conflict mitigation and management, to be used by them on the field. Football improves the atmosphere by setting a clear set of rules in a complex environment framed by a never-ending conflict.
It ensures impartiality and teaches the youngsters the principles of fairness, mutual respect and the equal rights of other people, fostering a bubble of non-violence, which in turn radiates out to the community at large. It bypasses socioeconomic differences, addressing the marginalised, regardless of whether the individual can pay, and occupies the youngsters in positive and meaningful activities that promote conflict mitigation, rather than behaviours and dynamics that perpetuate conflict and exclusion. It fosters good human relations and contributes to a healthier society and the reduction of stress. Our main goals are to promote dialogue through football and education and empower the girls of Jerusalem to play football.