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There’s an effort underway in Israel to bridge the divide between Jews and Arabs with a more disciplined form of fighting: the martial arts. NewsHour’s Martin Fletcher has the story.
A sea of white. Karate teachers from all over Israel, men and women – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouin – together for a karate master class on the shores of the Mediterranean, north of Tel Aviv. The attraction…
Imad Khalil, who runs the karate association of neighboring Jordan. But this isn't only about the martial arts. It's about bridging the gap between Jews and Arabs. Hoping that the Jordanian teacher will introduce more Israelis to Jordan and to the Arab world. A step toward a wider peace.
It's help for peace. If you have a neighbor. And never you see him, and they see you. How you going to have relation with him? Friendship?
Khalil's friendship visit to Israel got off to a rocky start, though.
There were supposed to be eight Jordanians here taking part in these karate exercises but six of them weren't allowed into the country of Israel, they couldn't get visas.
Danny Hakim, the founder of Budo for Peace, the non-profit group that invited the Jordanians, called it just a bureaucratic hiccup.
You know, as a karate person (laugh) you know, it's just one obstacle. Next time we'll definitely get them to come.
Budo for Peace has 24 martial arts clubs in Israel and 60 more affiliated clubs that follow the same creed.
We do two things. One is teach values, values like respect, self-control, harmony within yourself, harmony for others, self-development and on the other side, we bring people and communities together. There's so many different ethnic groups in Israel and all over the world, every country. We try and bring them together.
For all the violence and hostility between Jews and Arabs, there are hundreds of organizations devoted to bringing them together — many through sports. In addition to Budo for Peace there's Soccer for Peace, Basketball for Peace, Surfing for Peace, and even Ultimate Frisbee for Peace. Eight year-old Idan Noit has been learning karate since he was five.
And as his mother, Inbar, watches, she says she dreams of peace, and that her son won't need to fight in the Israeli army.
We keep hoping that until he becomes 18 he won't have to go, but I'm not so sure.
That's been every generation's dream here?
Karate isn't only about the body but the mind too. And in Jerusalem's Alyn Hospital, the karate colleagues brought their message of hope to children who can really use it.
They're not able to do a full punch. They just do this. But for them inside it's a huge achievement.
Khalil does similar work in Jordan, bringing martial arts to children who benefit in the body and maybe, the mind.
All the parents, all the people who in charge in the hospital, they told me, "The children are getting better physically and mentally." Well, I said, "Oh. Make me happy this."
Fighting for peace, for young and old.
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