Thursday, June 25, 2009

It Really is Cricket

Cricket in Israel has been popular since the time of the British mandate, and is keenly played today among Israel's 80,000 Indian Jews who immigrated to development cities in Israel such as Lod, Ramle, Ashdod and Beersheva, bringing with them their love for the gentleman's sport.

Israel 21C reports that although a number of Israeli teams head to European competitions every year, the Israel Cricket Association, which organizes them, is yet to see an Arab or Bedouin member of Israeli society join the sport.

A new immigrant to Israel plans to change the way cricket is played in Israel, and hopes to bring all members of the country on board while using it as a vehicle for reconciliation. Unlike soccer, football or rugby, cricket is a competitive but non-combative sport. It requires reflection, patience and skill, and gives players an opportunity to relate to each other as they wait up to 15 minutes of time for play.

The idea to connect Israeli Bedouin kids to their Jewish neighbors through cricket came from within, and was catalyzed by a UK group Cricket4Change. A teacher from the Bedouin town Hura, in the Negev Desert had contacted the cricket development officer in Israel. The teacher said that he was keen to teach cricket to his kids at school. The Hura teacher was given a cricket set, pamphlets, a booklet and coaching course on how cricket is played.

The children fit into two groups - from 9 to 12, and from 15 to 18. About 60 have been involved until now he says. There are additional effects built into the idea: Many of the older kids from the Bedouin population are problematic kids, who've been in jail before. Organizers believe their involvement is an opportunity to help them reform, as they learn to be coaches and mentors to the younger kids.

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