May 18th, 2009

Israeli Football Team to Present Coexistence Model in Germany

Following an invitation by the Central Council of Jews in Germany , the youth team of the Israeli Hapoel Abu Ghosh - Mevasseret Zion football club will visit Berlin from May 25th till May 28th, 2009. The young players will present to the German public the unique model of Jewish-Arab coexistence practiced by the club. Team members will meet with German politicians and media representatives and engage the Jewish Maccabi Berlin team in a friendly match.

Hapoel Abu Ghosh - Mevasseret Zion is the only Jewish-Arab football team in Israel and, as far is known, in the entire world. The team is a prime example of how football can help bridge cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious divides Hapoel Abu Ghosh - Mevasseret Zion carries a message of friendship and tolerance. This is highly relevant for German and for European football leagues which face hostility towards aliens and racism. Therefore, the Central Council is happy to give the German public an opportunity to learn from the young Israeli players, Jews and Arabs, about their experiences. While coexistence is always easy, its success is measured by the ability to confront and solve problems that may arise, anywhere in the world, from the meeting of different populations.

While Jewish and Arab footballers play together in ma ny Israeli teams, Hapoel Abu Ghosh - Mevasseret Zion is the only club strictly adhering to joint and equal Jewish-Arab management and has declared fostering coexistence as its official aim.

The team officials and most players come from two Israeli localities just west of Jerusalem : the Jewish Mevasseret Zion and the Arab Abu Ghosh. The six-member board of the club comprises three Arabs and three Jews. Dr. Alon Liel of Mevasseret Zion, a former Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry is the club's Jewish president while Muhammad Jaber of Abu Ghosh is the Arab chairman of the club. On the playing field, Arab players constitute just one-third of the squad, but this is a result of the difference of size between the two neighboring towns: While Mevasseret Zion boasts a population of 27,000, Abu Ghosh only has 7,000 inhabitants.

In the current season the adult team of Hapoel Abu Gosh - Mevasseret Zion plays in the Israeli Regional League South. The team hopes to advance to the National League (second league in Israel football) next year.

Abu Ghosh is one of the most famous Arab localities in Israel , boasting restaurants which attract thousands of Jewish Israelis not only from nearby Jerusalem , but also from Tel Aviv and other cities. Abu Ghosh hummous (oriental chickpea paste) is famous in Israel and beyond. Twice a year the picturesque village hosts a world-renowned music festival. In Jewish tradition, Abu Ghosh is considered to be located on the site of biblical Kiryat Yearim, where the Arc of Covenant had been kept by the Children of Israel before being moved the Jerusalem Temple .

Mevasseret Zion was created in 1964 by the merger of two young pioneer communities. The main archeological site of the town is the "Castel", a hill on which Roman legions had built a fort two thousands years ago. In later centuries, the Crusaders, too, built a military stronghold on the elevated spot controlling the access road to Jerusalem . Today Mevasseret Zion is home to the country's largest immigrant absorption centre and boats a kosher McDonalds popular with religious Jewish tourists from abroad who cannot enjoy a kosher McDonalds meal in their home countries.

Berlin, den 18. Mai 2009 / 24. Ijjar 5769