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Israeli and Palestinian Children Try Conflict Resolution through Martial Arts...

Daphna Berman

A group of Israeli and Palestinian children left for Greece on July 22nd as part of a new initiative aimed at building peace through martial arts. The program, which ran for 3 days, is aimed at teaching conflict resolution through the principles of movement and respect, is the first of its kind.

"Martial arts is about creating harmony within one's self and that is the first step toward creating harmony with another person," said Danny Hakim, who founded the Budo for Peace organization in November of last year. "In budo [martial arts] your opponent is not called an enemy, but rather your partner."

Hakim, who immigrated to Israel from Australia three years ago, has been practicing martial arts for 34 years. He studied under Steven Seagal in Japan, where he lived for ten years, and has represented both Australia and Japan in international competitions. Most recently, he coached the Israeli Shotokan Karate team in Durban.

For Hakim, a sixth degree Black Belt who now holds the highest rank for Shotokan Karate in Israel, this week's Budo Festival for Peace is a natural extension of martial arts principles. "`Budo' in Japanese literally means `the way of stopping conflict' but it is falsely translated as `martial arts,'" he explains. "When you go to a dojo [budo club], you go in and bow as a sign of respect. You bow to the place, you bow to the instructor, and you bow to your partner."

The Palestinian and Israeli competitors, he adds, will have to bow to each other, despite the language gap that may separate them, because communication is through movement. "It's a new idea, but it makes a lot of sense," he insists.

The participants, aged 10 to 15, are all martial arts students. They included six Palestinian children, six Israeli children - four of whom are Jewish - and participants from other areas of conflict, such as Kosovo and Cyprus.

The Palestinian and Israeli contingent met once last week at a get-together in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Centre.

"Everyone was really nervous," recalls Hakim, "and budo was what broke the ice."

Participation for the program was highly competitive, and Hakim, who interviewed 60 youngsters from Issawiya, only accepted six. Their flights were subsidized by the Peres Center for Peace and the Japanese government, but the Israeli children were responsible for their own transportation costs.

Upon arrival in Greece, the children had four days of intensive budo training. Top masters from Japan arrived for the event, and so the participants had a chance to fine tune their martial art specialty, whether it be karate or judo. They also learned a new martial art, such as aikido, kendo, or shorinji kempo, a mix of several more practiced techniques.

Representatives from the Washington DC-based Institute of World Affairs, a non profit organization that urges creative approaches to international conflicts, also taught lessons in conflict resolution.

The retreat was hosted by the municipality of Delphi, the mythical home to the ancient Greek Oracle that first urged warriors to put down their arms and show their athletic ability. "The real spirit of competition through respect and the Olympic games comes from Delphi," Hakim adds.

The program is still in the pilot stage, but Hakim is convinced that the weekend gave the children tools to become ambassadors for peace when they returned home. "It sounds funny," he admits, "but you've got to see it."

Source: Ha’aretz, July 23, 2004 haaretzdaily.com

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Daphna Berman:
Israeli and Palestinian Children Try Conflict Resolution through Martial Arts...
In the first program of its kind, Israeli and Palestinian youth learn the principles of conflict resolution through martial arts training. ‘"Martial arts is about creating harmony within one's self and that is the first step toward creating harmony with another person," said Danny Hakim, who founded the Budo for Peace organization.’ (Source: Ha’aretz, July 23, 2004)

Common Ground News Service February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-03-2004



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