JVP Community (Bakehila), established by Knesset Member Erel Margalit, a non-profit organization that operates in Jerusalem in order to change the social reality of children and teens from disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city, held a unique soccer tournament dedicated entirely to the struggle against violence and racism on sport fields. Gilo Alef's soccer team won the tournament, overcoming Zalman Aran's soccer team 2-0. Gilo Meuhad School for Sciences and Arts placed third.
 

The tournament, held this year for the first time, brought together 12 teams of 5th-6th grade Jewish and Arab students from schools across the city in which Bakehila is active. The children, who've been preparing for the tournament for several weeks, were immensely excited to play and get acquainted with the teams from across the city.
 

Overall, 140 Jewish and Arab students participated in the tournament [from Beit Safafa, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, Katamon, Gilo and Talpiyot]. During the tournament, which was held at the Mabat field in Katamon, an activity to combat racism and violence on the sports fields was held.

This phenomenon has been growing over the past year all over Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, and has been widely condemned. The anti-racism and violence activity included anthem writing and sign making stations to cheer the teams.
 

At the end of the tournament, Knesset Member Erel Margalit, who founded Bakehila with his Wife Debbie Margalit ten years ago, awarded the trophy to the winning team. Trophies were awarded as well to the team who played most fairly and to the "Goal King". For Margalit, who founded Bakehila in order to enable many children in the city to fulfill themselves and turn their dreams into reality, this is a welcome initiative as part of the path of instilling values of reconciliation and solidarity and eliminating violence.
 

"I'm happy and proud to be here with you today", Said Knesset Member Margalit and added: "you are excellent examples that tolerance, respect for your rival, and achievement can be a part of sports culture on the fields, values that should be adopted by the mature teams in the national league".
Bakehila operates 50 year of service volunteers from across the country that work year round with over 3000 children and teens from various neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The tournament was initiated by Bakehila's year of service volunteers Tom Gershon, from Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, and Raz Yogev from Kibbutz Revivim. Tom and Raz, whom volunteer in schools in Jerusalem, noticed that in many cases, children playing soccer at school and in the neighborhood are dragged into disrespecting their rivals that often leads to violence. Furthermore, they've concluded that the violence amongst the children is "legitimized" by the verbal and even physical violence they witness at national league soccer games.
 

Tom and Raz decided to take up the challenge and as an educational act, initiated the soccer tournament to enable the children to enjoy the game, whilst internalizing values such as: appreciation, acceptance of others, and non-violent sportsmanship. "Our motto is based on understanding that everyone deserves a fair chance. This important soccer tournament is an opportunity for 120 children we work with over the year, to meet different schools and populations and understand that in order to change, you must first respect and accept the other person", they said.
 

In order to finance the tournament, Bakehila's year of service volunteers initiated an online campaign that was exceptionally successful and raised 5,000 NIS in a short amount of time.
According to Ofer Gutman, Bakehila's executive director, "Bakehila works year round to change the social reality of the children of Jerusalem. In order to overcome this challenge, we run a variety of social activities on values such as tolerance, cooperation and acceptance of the other, which emphasize a different kind of dialogue and a moral society. I have no doubt this soccer tournament is an excellent initiative to instill these values, in contrast to the messages that are sent by the big league games".