Spanish team bringing soccer to Israeli, Palestinian kids

MADRID (JTA) — Members of a Spanish soccer team will visit Israel and the West Bank to host skills clinics and games with Israeli and Palestinian children in order to promote peace.

Football Club Barcelona announced that games will be played on Aug. 3 in the southern West Bank and the following day in Tel Aviv with teams made up of a combination of Israeli and Palestinian children.

The cost of the team’s “Peace Tour” will be paid for by FC Barcelona; there will be no commercial sponsors or entrance fees, according to reports. According to the club’s website, all proceeds will go “to the promotion of peace between Israelis and Palestinians through the values of sport.”

Barcelona players will visit top Israeli and Palestinian officials on the trip and  important sites in the region.

On Aug. 3, the team will go to Bethlehem and Ramallah, where they will be received by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The first games will take place in the Dura municipal stadium near Hebron, where Mohamed Assaf, the young “Arab Idol” winner from Gaza, is scheduled to perform.

In Jerusalem the following day, Palestinian and Israeli children will come together to play in the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Prior to the game, the team will visit the Western Wall and be received by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The team also will visit the prime minister’s residence.

The Peres Center for Peace, the Israeli Football Association and the Palestinian Football Association are involved in the events.

“FC Barcelona has become a channel for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” the soccer team said on its website. “The FC Barcelona Foundation has organized sports activities between the two communities in the past and is committed to continuing to do so as part of its ongoing effort to bring peace to the area.”

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