The Friendship Games
The Friendship Games mission is to create peace in the Middle East and other countries of conflict by bringing together student basketball players at the university level for a week long basketball tournament.
The week long Friendship Games, is a basketball tournament in which teams from many countries have participated. These countries were carefully chosen to bring together countries that have been in conflict in the past.
The teams play ball, float in the Dead Sea, travel to unique historical and religious sites such as the Old City in Jerusalem and enjoy evenings with dinner, performances and parties.
Even the performances have everything to do with breaking down wall of separation between people and building bridges of friendship and understanding as traditional song and dance of each country are performed by professional entertainers.
The program was conceived in 2006 by Atlanta Hawks co-owner Ed Peskowitz after meeting with Arie Rosenzweig, athletic director of Tel Aviv University and Ilan Kowalsky , Athletics Director & Head Coach at the Herzeliya Interdisciplinary Center .
Their goal was to use the game of basketball to unify countries on a grassroots, person-to-person level. The idea of initiating an international sporting event to promote peace is not new.
The Friendship Games focuses more than just on the love of sports and introduces the athletes to a healthy respect for religion and culture and it is this combination of ingredients that offers the potential for over coming old wounds and making new bridges in the process of peace. This global initiative aims to use sport as a means to help instill dialogue, tolerance and ultimately peace among young people in areas experiencing conflict and hostility.
Throughout the week all participants and staff live together in close hotel quarters. This living arrangement gives participants opportunities to meet and share freely over meals, poolside and in the many public areas.
Teams also take part in a dialogue in a dialogue and Q&A with local high school students. Conversations touch on topics such as women in sports, amateur vs. professional sports, athletes as role models etc.
The local students are also invited to come watch tournament games and take pictures with the athletes. Engaging players and students in these types of dialogues, advance the goal of peace through a truly experiential educational experience.
Future generations can continue the effort to make international peace a reality and The Friendship Games is one step towards providing participants with the experience and the skills to create an identity and dialogue within the global community.