Peace? Follow the children

The need to categorize and critique each other is killing us all. Let us not fear difference, but embrace it.

Peace Now (R390) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Peace Now (R390)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AJewish kid from Kiryat Shmona, a Muslim kid from Rajar and a Christian kid from Nazareth are all playing hockey together. Words like respect, unity, peace and acceptance spring to mind when we think about this situation. These kids, however, are thinking of different words: teammates, winning, fun. These kids do not see playing together as a political act. These kids do not discriminate and demand segregated teams.
These kids do not utter racial slurs.
Language is not a barrier to teamwork.
Religion is not a barrier to teamwork. Customs are not a barrier to teamwork. These kids just want to play hockey. These kids are not opponents because some are Jewish and some are Arab; they are opponents because some are wearing blue, and some are wearing red. To these kids, everyone is just another kid. Just another potential friend. Just a human being.
Interactions like the one described above frequently occur in Israel, the world’s most polarized and condemned country. This particular story takes place daily at the Canada Center in Metula, the most northern city in Israel. Kids of all ages and backgrounds congregate here to experience the peaceful powers of sport. This is not some PR project.
This is real life. Standing in the dressing room is not so different than standing in one in North America; there are shouts, high fives, and the smell of effort (not too pleasant a stench, mind you). The rink is not a place to make political statements; it is a place to bond with friends and play. Ask a kid playing there about the big message they are sharing, and they will be flustered. To them, all they are doing is playing sports with other kids. Simple, yet it encapsulates the message beautifully.
Throughout Israel, Muslims, Jews and Christians work together in situations like this all the time. Peace is prevalent.
Peace in the global sense of treaties and deweaponization is extraneous.
True peace is not between governments.
True peace is between individuals who coexist without prejudiced hate. The need to categorize and critique each other is killing us all. Let us not fear difference, but embrace it.
Let us not judge people by their skin color or physique, but by their personalities.
Let us not hate, but love.
Peace is a matter of opening one’s heart up to the possibility that variance is valuable. Imagine if everyone was the same. What a boring world it would be.
IN CANADA and the United States, Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is currently in full swing, running from March 4-8. The IAW’s goal, according to its website, “is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system.” UN resolution 194 is what governs their views regarding necessary Israeli action (return the Golan Heights, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Right of Return are the main items). Boycotting and condemning Israel is rationalized through lectures and movies; it is essentially a public forum of senseless hatred.
ISRAEL MAY not be perfect, but it is far from an apartheid state. It is a country where people who differ from each other unite and build something special. It is a country where Jews, Christians and Arabs cheer each other on during hockey games. Yes, there is racism in Israel.
There is bigotry is Israel. There are certainly problems in Israel. But name me a country where there aren’t these things. Students on campuses across North America are tragically unleashing anti-Semitism and stupidity. Our own democratic rules are counteracting each other; freedom of speech is allowing animosity to be spread. Freedom of speech is allowing people to act on prejudices.
The IAW in itself is counterproductive; all it shows is that the Jews need Israel as a Jewish homeland. North America may feel safe for Jews today, but no one knows about tomorrow.
The innocence of kids should teach us all a lesson: look past a person’s exterior. Search into their souls.
Judge a person not by their background, but by their dreams for the future. During this year’s IAW, let us make peace between people. Because that’s all we truly are. People.
The writer is a gap-year student from Canada living in northern Israel.