Field of Peace launched to unite Israeli and UAE youth

Israel Baseball Association and Dubai Little League announce new baseball tournament to take place in both countries.

MAJOR LEAGUER and Israel Olympic National Team catcher Ryan Lavarnway (center) coaches young Israeli baseball players at the Baptist Village in 2019. (photo credit: Courtesy)
MAJOR LEAGUER and Israel Olympic National Team catcher Ryan Lavarnway (center) coaches young Israeli baseball players at the Baptist Village in 2019.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Association of Baseball and the Dubai Little League jointly announced on Tuesday the establishment of the Field of Peace tournament.
The event will feature the 12-and-under National Teams of Israel and the United Arab Emirates competing both in Dubai and Israel for a trophy aptly named the Unity Cup.
The first series of games will take place on March 21-25 in Dubai with a return match slated for the fall of 2021 in Israel.
“We are excited to enter a new era of cooperation between our organizations and countries,” said Dubai Little League President Roger Duthie and his IAB counterpart Jordy Alter in a joint statement. “We strive together to develop the game of baseball in Israel and Dubai as a basis for peace and cooperation between our countries. We see this as a major step forward in both areas and are excited to jointly hold the first team sports tournament between our countries. We hope these games lead to further regional cooperation.”
Invitations have also been extended to teams from other Gulf countries to participate.
His Excellency Saeed Mohammad Hareb, the Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council said: “To have children play sports at their innocent level which represents more than sport is something that should be cherished. This event will help bound our two nations and I cannot think of anything better than to have children represent the bright future that we look forward to growing together. The Dubai Sports Council is proud to support this initiative which is a testament to the wonderful volunteers of the Dubai Little League and the Israel Association of Baseball."
Head of the Middle East bureau of the Israeli MFA Eliav Benjamin echoed these sentiments.
“We are creating relations between countries and building bridges of peace. Sports are a great example of the connection between people which we will continue to develop.”
With over 400 players in its ranks, the Dubai Little League has seven age divisions ranging from ages 4-18. Since 2016, the LA Dodgers have supported our program by sending a delegation of current and former players and coaches, including pitching great Orel Hershiser, Justin Turner, and manager Dave Roberts. 
The Israeli side has been selected from youth teams from all over Israel, according to general manager Peter Kurz, who has nurtured baseball in Israel for over 20 years.
“We begin teaching the game to kids and currently have 1,000 players in Israel from our Little Leagues all the way up to our Olympic squad which made history by qualifying for the Tokyo Games this summer in Japan,” said Kurz.
A testament to this long-range success is the fact that U-12 team manager Louie Miller, as well as assistant coaches Shlomo Lipman, Yehuda Joffe, Mordy Roth, and Natan Bash are all graduates of the IAB Academy. They are all ex-National Team players and, not surprisingly, all served in IDF combat units.
Miller, a trained social worker by profession and father of four from Carmiel, said: “Any time you get to wear the national team colors it’s an honor. To do so at this juncture, when we are literally building peace from the ground up, is a special opportunity.
“Kids don't care about politics. They love the game. Baseball especially has a purity that brings out the love of sport, the love of team, and respect for competitors to its highest level.”
Miller, who also manages a unique program called Baseball Lekulanu in the upper Galilee which brings Jewish and Arab kids together has a particular insight regarding the value of the upcoming tournament.
“When you think about it, the kids in the UAE are our new neighbors. We look forward to playing them and getting to know each other for years to come."
Israeli shortstop Adam Feder is the embodiment of Miller's words. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Feder fell in love with the sport when his father Menachem took him to a San Francisco Giants home game during a family visit to the US.
Adam said he is “truly excited about going to Dubai” and his love of the game came across most strongly. He said he looks forward to meeting kids who share this love.
Indeed, the Field of Peace Tournament, enabled by Israel’s budding relations with the UAE and other Arab states, shows that peace may turn hopes into reality.
Speaking from Dubai, Duthie noted the role played by the USA in widening the circle of international understanding and thus how fitting it was to have America’s national pastime as the first team sport to bring youth from Israel and UAE together. “Peace,” Duthie said, “is like the ball field envisioned in the classic 1989 Kevin Costner movie – ‘if you build it they will come.”