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  You are in: Home > Alpha Press > Amity in the Middle East  

Amity in the Middle East
How the World Sports Peace Project and the Passion for Football brought together Arab and Jewish Youngsters

Geoffrey Whitfield

Geoffrey Whitfield is a retired Baptist Minister and University Chaplain. He has worked and written about the Israel–Palestinian situation for ten years and is currently researching into the causes of terrorism with the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Institute of London Metropolitan University.


The World Sports Peace Project brought together Israeli nd Arab youngsters and adults from towns in Israel, staff and students from four English universities, Premier League clubs, most notably Arsenal, the British Embassy and the British Council in Israel, the Israel Sports Authority, and runners in the Flora London Marathon. It became a pointer to more creative ways for community relations in divided societies.

Who is this book intended for? For those wanting to read about Arab and Jewish youngsters playing football together; for those interested in conflict prevention and peace-making; and for those wanting to run such a project in other political climes. Over three years, a successful Football/Conflict Prevention Project took place on an annual basis, close to Nazareth. Those who took part will be able to tell their children and grandchildren of the time when Jews and Arab-Christians and Arab-Moslems played in mixed teams against mixed teams. Their team could only win when they learned to work together, when trust and confidence in each other overrode political antagonisms. With such a model, the future of peoples in other strife-torn communities could move forward to hope, and not backward to despair.

Foreword by David Bedford
The World Sports Peace Project
List of Abbreviations

1 The Down to Earth Miracle, 2000–2003, and Thereafter

The beginning of the Project – the move to bring Jewish and Arab youngsters together, April 2000
The organisational beginnings and 12 months of planning for the next phase of development The beginnings of an effective working structure
Early contact with the Olympic movement
Early initiatives with the English Universities
The inclusion of the University of Brighton and Arsenal Football Club at the end of the first year

2 The Turning Point for the First Project in 2001
The raising of the funds and the coaching team, April 2001
Contact with the British Embassy, the British Council, and the first Anglo–Arab–Jewish meetings
Last-minute hitches!
The First World Sports Peace Project in Ibillin, Daily Record, 25 July–3 August 2001

3 Developments from September 2001 to the Second Project, 2002

First steps for the Second Project, 2002
The preparatory visit to Israel, November 2001 and developments with the British Council
Formal recognition and honouring of the project in Ibillin
Strategies for turning blame into learning curves
West Bank beginnings in Bethlehem
Strengthening the organisational bases
The clouds, the rainbow and the commitment, March 2002
More clouds in the lead up to the Second Project
The postponement of the West Bank ‘Rainbow’ project
The Second WSPP in Ibillin, Misgav, Tivon, Daily Record, 22–30 August 2002
Reflections on the Second Project and thinking ahead to the Third
Changes in the British Council in Israel

4 The British Council and UK Universities – The Third Project, 2003
Involvement with Meridian Television and the media resources of Southampton Institute of Higher Education
Reconnaissance visit to Israel in May
Count-down to the project – three weeks to go
Notes of briefing for coaching team, 14 June 2002
The Third WSPP, Nazareth, Daily Record, 5–13 July 2003
Learning points and the future

5 An Act of Faith – The Entrustment

WSPP Philosophy and Codes of Practice
WSPP and practicalities of working with others
Interaction with the University of Brighton and the British Council
Report of the final meeting, 30 September 2003
Exciting developments in the WSPP

6 A Model for the Church, Sport and Conflict Prevention
The influences? The discovery of revelation?
Mystery and immanence
More than humanism
Creation, humanity and its destiny
Service, Community and Stewardship
Differences in religious practice and dialogue
Forgiveness and reconciliation
Coincidences, providence and the Holy Spirit
Political theology, incarnation, servanthood and society

List of the WSPP Coaching Teams, 2001–2003

Sources and References

“I have done many memorable things in my life, but this has been one of the most important things I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.” From the Foreword by David Bedford, Director, Flora London Marathon

"I have been consistently encouraged by the work of Conflict Prevention through sport by Geoffrey Whitfield and his colleagues. Their successful work in Israel with Arab and Jewish young people has been the result of both vision and sustained hard work. The story will encourage and activate everyone interested and involved in peace work." Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus

“There's much talk about conflict resolution; less about conflict prevention, and even then, it tends to be in the rarefied realms of conferences and consultations. Other than the fact it is a good read, there are three reasons why this book is important. It deals with conflict resolution at ground level; it involves the generations whose futures are in the melting , and it's about sport - which is not just fun, but is where you people learn about justice, fair play, obeying the rules and team work.” Former Head of Religious Broadcasting, BBC Northern Ireland

“The shared vision – democratic, passionate, and rife with difficulties and pitfalls – is an expression of religion as passionate action. Imagine, if you can, the glorious incongruity of Arab and Jewish boys and girls playing soccer in Bethlehem or Nazareth, or in the shadow of the Sermon on the Mount. Downright inspiring.” Ron David, author of Arabs & Israel for Beginners

“The book reads more like a suspense novel as Geoffrey documents the birth and growth of WSPP, the impossible made possible by the involvement of people who ‘have a scale of mind and heart beyond the ordinary’. Football (soccer) is a powerful metaphor for learning to trust, having confidence in each other, and working together toward a common goal . . . behaviors which continue to be all too elusive on a global scale.” J. Clayton Schroeder, bookseller and freelance writer, Portsmouth, NH, USA


Publication Details

Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
192 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
September 2006
  Illustrated:   Yes
Paperback Price:
£14.95 / $25.00

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