The city of Ramla, together with 14 NGOs, is celebrating the International Day of Sport and Peace (April 7). The event was established in 2013 by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee to honor sport as a catalyst for social change.
Some 3,000 events in 180 countries will take place over the course of 2019. This is the first year that Israel has joined in. Four hundred young Israeli athletes are participating in 10 sports: soccer, karate, capoeira, Frisbee, taekwondo, tennis, wheelchair tennis, catchball, surfing and kayaking.
Ramla was chosen to host Israel’s Sport and Peace event due to its diverse population. Approximately 30 percent of the city’s 75,000 residents are immigrants (in particular from India, Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union) and 23% of the city is Arab.
The local organizers, which include the National Olympic Committee in Israel and the Alliance of Middle East Peace, worked hard to ensure that athletes from all sectors of Israeli society – Jewish, Arab, Bedouin, ultra-Orthodox, immigrant, asylum-seekers and those with special needs – were included.
At most sporting events, a “red card” indicates a penalty. At the International Day of Sport and Peace, however, participants will hold up a “white card” as a gesture of equality and peace. Pictures of athletes from around the world holding their white cards can be seen by searching the hashtag #whitecard.
Concurrent to the main sport events at Ramla Sports Complex, the Azrieli Ramla Mall is hosting an art exhibit featuring work from photographer Jordan Polevoy and artwork from selected schools entitled “Through My Eyes: Children Draw Sports and Peace.”
A dance party will round out the festivities, extending into the night.
Tamar Hay Sagiv, director of the Peace Education Department at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation — whose Twinned Peace Sports Schools participated at yesterday’s event — said, “The project was born out of the desire to take the positive values found on the football pitch — teamwork, leadership, and cooperation — and promote them within schools to bring together boys and girls from diverse backgrounds. We share the belief that football [soccer] is a powerful tool for encouraging acceptance of the ‘other’ and shared living.”