Some 400 participants from across Israel’s diverse ethnic communities gathered in the town of Ramle on Sunday to do their bit in a global sporting initiative that highlighted the yearning for peace through sports.
The #WhiteCard campaign was held around the world on April 6 to mark the United Nations “International Day of Sport for Development and Peace” but it was held a day later in Israel to allow observant Jews to take part.
The Israeli gathering included able-bodied and disabled participants, young and old, male and female, from Israel’s Jewish, Arab, religious and secular communities and asylum seekers living in Israel. They participated in 10 sports, including soccer, tennis, table tennis, karate, taekwondo, Frisbee, capoeira and kayaking.
“The universal language of sport transcends the boundaries of religion, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. This event brought so many different sectors together and showcased the power of sport to build a shared society,” said local organizer Danny Hakim from the Alliance for Middle East Peace, which sponsored the event together with the Azrieli Mall in Ramle.
The “White Card” name for the day was inspired by an exhibit by French photographer Maud Bernos called “Carton Blanc” in which her images showed people holding up a white card symbolizing fair play and peace.
The white card represents the opposite of the “red card” that is shown to athletes in some sports after they have severely broken the rules and are sent off the field of play.
April 6 was chosen because it marks the day on which the first modern Olympic Games opened in 1896, in Athens.
The first White Card day was held in 2014.
Sunday was the first time it had been held in Israel with mass participation, an event spokeswoman said.
The UN specified that the day should be “commemorated globally each year by international, regional, national sport and development organizations to honor the role that sport plays in society, whether by encouraging healthier lifestyles, making sport more widely accessible or using it as a vehicle for development in areas made vulnerable by conflict, poverty and inequality.”
Bernos said on the April 6 website that the event was “a unique opportunity to show that there is real mobilization around this day and that the peace through sport movement is alive and kicking.”
Similar to the 180 global locations on Saturday, in Ramle, all participants concluded the event in a group photo and held up white cards to show their support for the initiative.