Israel will host its first international cricket event in August 2006 - the European Cricket Council Under-17 second division championship. The Israel Cricket Association this week released the schedule for the event, which will see teams from six countries including Belgium, Italy and France competing. The matches will be staged at venues in Tel Aviv and Ashdod. Stanley Perlman, Chairman of the ICA, said he was "ecstatic and thrilled" at the prospects of hosting the event and promised to make it "a great tournament for everyone involved." "When we started our youth program officially in September 2000 we set certain goals and one of our distant aims was to host cricket tournaments," Perlman said. "Hosting the ECC Under-17 tournament is a fulfilment of that aim. This is just great and I am proud for everyone." Perlman said the ECC's decision to allow Israel to host the event "shows the coaching staff, and most importantly the youth, that we are extremely serious and determined to take the game to even greater heights of achievement." Perlman added that the ICA intended to use the tournament as a vehicle to promote Israel. "This is not only going to be a sports spectacle, but we also intend to show all participants what a great country Israel is from a cultural, historical and religious point of view," he said. The ICA is using cricket to encourage Israeli youngsters to mix with Palestinian counterparts. "One of our next aims is to set up a cricket scheme with Palestinian children and we will definitely achieve it within the next three years," Perlman said. ICC Regional Development Manager for Europe Richard Holdsworth also spoke of his optimism about the impact the event could have. "This is hugely positive for cricket in Europe and in Israel in particular," he said. "Cricket there has a huge emphasis on youth, they have fantastic programs in schools and clubs and use cricket as a force for good to keep children off the streets." Israel, an associate member of the International Cricket Council since 1974, has 18 domestic clubs in three divisions with 270 seniors and 270 juniors playing the game plus 1,000 youngsters involved in development programs. The tournament in Israel is one of 11 scheduled by the ECC in 2006, equaling the highest number it has previously staged, in 2004. The first event is set to take place at Lords cricket ground in London February 10-12 when Hellas (Greece) defends its European Indoor Championship title. Guernsey and Jersey will play in the European 2nd Division Championship in Glasgow and the event in Israel, both in August, and in the same month Slovenia face Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland and Luxembourg in the European 4th Division Championship.