Boundaries broken as Bedouin and Jewish children meet for cricket tournament

Mon, May 25, 2009 12:19 PM

Boundaries broken as Bedouin and Jewish children meet for cricket tournament
At the end of 2008 a pioneer project was launched by the ICA in conjunction with the UK charity Cricket4Change and Kaye College in Be'er Sheva to bring Jewish and Bedouin children in the Negev desert together through cricket.

Last week the project stepped up a gear with the return visit of Tom Rodwell and Andy Sellins from Cricket4Change, together with two of their coaches Mikey and Danny. Together with ICA staff Naor Gudker, George Sheader and Herschel Gutman, and headmaster of a Hura school Hamed Elkiyan, a formidable team was ready to tackle the sweltering desert temperatures and get as many kids involved as possible.

Afik school in Be'er Sheva and the Bedouin town of Hura were the initial destinations. Sessions were held with trainee sports teachers at Kaye College and potential coaches amongst members of the Israel U19 squad. A visit was made with BBC and Reuters who were covering the trip in convoy to El Awashla, a Bedouin village with no roads, no electricity, no water supplies.

Ushered into a tent, and welcomed in true Bedouin tradition by the Sheikh, Council Head and other elders, the contingent were treated to bitter coffee, sweet tea, and a meal of chicken and rice served on a large communal plate. After an hour of discussing, and translating everything from Duckworth/Lewis to the falling price of goats hide, the school Headmaster rounded up 10 kids, all bare-foot, and within 20 minutes another impromptu game was on.

On the day of the tournament everything was in place for a perfect day ? even the weather, 25 degrees as opposed to 38 degrees the day before. Thirty Bedouin kids from Hura, (for many making their first ever visit to Be'er Sheva), thirty Jewish kids from Beer Sheva, four coaches from England, and two coaches from the ICA, and one senior diplomat from the British Embassy were all on hand. Kaye College management came down from their offices to welcome the world press and at one point there were more cameramen on the court than kids.

The tournament started at 10am, with 6 MIXED teams, Bedouin and Jewish kids playing together on the same team. Three hours later it was all over ? but so successful was the event, the tournament could change the face of Israeli cricket, and perhaps in some small way even the entire Middle East.

Medals and certificates were handed out, emotional speeches were made, and goodbyes were said with promises of "next year in Jerusalem", for bringing cricket to Jewish and Arab children in Jerusalem is already on the agenda.

The ICA has also already planned a youth festival on the holiday of Lag B'Omer for the kids to continue their interaction, this time in Tel Aviv.

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