Kicking for peace
Jewish and Palestinian players
come together in goodwill game

by Adam Pingel, December 18, 2002,
(Reprinted with the kind permission of The West Island Suburban)

A peace demonstration of a different kind was held Tuesday of last week at Vanier College between a group of Jewish and Palestinian college students.

There was no chanting, no arguing, no rioting, and definitely no violence. This demonstration wasn't in the streets, and didn't end with the riot squad being called in. Instead, it occurred in the gym, as a soccer game between Team Maccabi, made up of all Jewish players, and Team Palestine. And the message was more powerful than any other demonstration in the Montreal area.

The game was organized by Ghafar Bishtawi and Joey Zukran, who both participate in the intramural soccer league at Dawson College.

"At first, we both had our own views of each other, but after talking in person, on the phone, and e-mailing each other, we learned to love," Bishtawi said prior to the match. "We both don't want violence, we both just want peace."

Their goal was to show that even after all the fighting in the Middle East, and after the Concordia riot, that people in Montreal can still get along.

"This has nothing to do about winning or losing, it's what we're doing that really counts," said Zukran.

Soccer has always been known as 'the beautiful game' but the word beautiful couldn't describe what occurred. Midway through the first half, both teams took a pause for the camera. They took a group picture with both teams holding the other team's flag.

The game itself was a nail-biter to say the least. Team Maccabi had two lines while Team Palestine had only enough players to field one.

"We are very tired," said Ahmud Abu-Sheikhu going into the second half still tied at zero. The game ended in the best possible way, 1-1. "Again this event has nothing to do with who wins, it's about what we are showing," Zukran reminded me.

The sportsmanship was incredible. "Look at that, it's amazing!" said Zukran pointing at Ahmud Abu-Sheikhu helping up and hugging Emmanul Abikhzer after an accidental trip. "This could never happen at Concordia."

But it did happen at Vanier, and it kept happening for the rest of the game. It seemed that any time a player would fall down a member from the opposite team would help him up.

"We proved it's not all about war and fighting," said Bishtawi after the game. "We're all human, and we should remember that," he added.