The 2008 Friendship Games
The Third Annual Friendship Games basketball tournament at Tel Aviv University started Friday, May 30 and ended on June 5.
The tournament, which brings together college-aged student athletes of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, allowed them to join together on and off the basketball court. In addition to playing basketball, the student athletes also afforded the opportunity to come together in friendship by touring Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Tiberias and Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
The program was conceived in 2006 by Atlanta Hawks co-owner Ed Peskowitz after meeting with Arie Rosenzweig, athletic director of Tel Aviv University. Their goal was to use the game of basketball to unify countries on a grassroots, person-to-person level.
"This is our attempt to help people find common themes, hopes and dreams, rather than focusing on their differences,” Peskowitz said. "You either wring your hands over seemingly insolvable problems or try to make a difference.”
Among the countries competing in this year's event are Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Russia, Germany, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Republic of Cyprus, Ireland, China, Italy, Canada, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Greece, Slovenia, Portugal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Serbia. The teams compete in a round-robin style tournament with each team playing five games.
"During the Friendship Games, Arabs and Jews, Christians and Muslims, and people of all faiths will live together, play together, explore together and grow together,” Peskowitz added.
College teams from 23 different countries will participate in this year's tournament. Some of the countries participating have been or still are in conflict with each other.
Last year, teams from Russia, China, Serbia, Jordan, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Ukraine, Republic of Cyprus, Slovenia and Israel participated in the games.
"Watching the students play basketball and living together in the dormitories and participating in all of the cultural functions gives us great pleasure,” said Rosenzweig. "It demonstrates co-existence between nations through sport.”