Hundreds of years of false stereotyping and misconceptions can be undone by a simple revelation – despite our differences, we all desire peace.
What was once animosity between a few Jewish girls and their Arab peers has been transformed into mutual understanding thanks to the Israel Centre of Cape Town (IC), Partnership2Gether and the Peres Centre for Peace (PCP).
Eight girls from the Middle East participated in the recent Rabin Memorial Peace Soccer Tournament at Century City. Plenty of goals were scored, but the only one that counted was promoting peace.
TygerBurger spoke to two teenagers who grew up in the same vicinity west of Jerusalem, yet their culture and religion are worlds apart.
Both were taught to hate the other, but once they crossed the great divide they became good friends.
Hatzav Nechushtan is 17 years old and lives in a Jewish village called Giv’at Ye’arim.
The 15-year-old Sandy Awad Allah lives just 4 km away in a Palestinian village called Bait Naqquba.

With the help of PCP’s Dvir Zivan who acts as a translator, Sandy adds: “In the beginning we thought the Jewish girls wouldn’t like us, but we were surprised. Now we are best friends forever!”
Hatzav continues: “People are people, no matter where they come from, no matter who they believe in.”
Responding to the question whether the conflict in the Middle East could be resolved if all concerned were to overcome their misconceptions, Dvir answers: “In every conflict you get your side. You build your opinion there.
“You can say a lot of things, but when you see a face in front of you, you erase most of these opinions. By speaking together and playing together you cancel this out.”
This is why soccer was chosen as one of the ways how these girls can get to know one another, as well as players from Langa, Herzlia Middle School, St Cyprians and the Grassboots developmental team.
Jewish people’s first language is Hebrew, then English and a little Arabic, while the Palestinian first language is Arabic, then Hebrew and a little English.
Israel’s “Co-existence Team” obviously had difficulty communicating with one another and with the local players, but Dvir says this wasn’t a problem.
“We don’t really need to speak, because sport is the international language!”

According to Dvir they would answer: “We don’t know what you want from us. It’s not we and they, it’s us.”
The head of IC, Yaniv Nachmias, elaborates: “It was a chance for us to bring the group here and show that Israel is for peace, and promotes co-existence and tolerance. Arabs, Muslims and Jews can eat and laugh together, work together, train together and be together. These teenagers share the same problems of your average teenagers. They have a lot in common. This programme is just another step towards peace.”
According to him the soccer was “just an excuse” for the girls to get a little inspiration from South Africa and see that boundaries can be broken, regardless of your ethnic or religious background.Insofar as the resistance a programme such as this receive sin Israel, Yaniv reckons those who are against reconciliation “shout the loudest”.“Every average Israeli and Palestinian wants peace and prosperity so that that everyone benefits from it. But, the most vocal are the extremists on both sides,” he concludes.
Our very own Nelson Mandela wrote in Long Walk to Freedom: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”