Jewish, Bedouin girls come together in one-of-a-kind summer camp

‘One Team’ brings together 50 girls with goal to promote respect and understanding through sports and friendship

Participants in the 'One Team' girls camp that took place between August 1-10, 2023 at Kfar Silver near Ashkelon. (Hillel Lasri)
Participants in the 'One Team' girls camp that took place between August 1-10, 2023 at Kfar Silver near Ashkelon. (Hillel Lasri)

Between August 1 and 10, a unique summer camp was organized in southern Israel. A group of 50 girls from the Jewish and Bedouin communities came together to share their passion for sports and create new bonds across cultures.

The camp, now in its second year, is an initiative by the Azrieli Foundation’s Sports for Social Impact (SSI), operated by World ORT Kadima Mada. It was established to encourage girls to get to know one another, rise above cultural differences and challenge stereotypes, creating an environment for personal growth and empowerment, an SSI spokesperson said to The Times of Israel.

The camp took place at the Kfar Silver youth village near Ashkelon, and brought together 50 girls aged 13-15, with equal representation for Jewish and Bedouin participants.

For ten days, the girls participated in a wide range of sports activities including tennis, volleyball, athletics, swimming, and more. They engaged in self-defense training, attended drowning-prevention workshops, toured together, attended lectures by inspiring women from the world of sports, conducted group discussions, and shared Friday and Shabbat meals together, learning about their respective cultures.

“Particularly in the current social climate, the ‘One Team’ summer camp holds amplified value,” said Danna Azrieli, chairwoman of the Azrieli Foundation in Israel.

“It exemplifies the true essence of unity and partnership and promotes the understanding that diverse communities in Israeli society can live together in harmony,” she added.

An image from an activity at the ‘One Team’ girls camp that took place between August 1-10 at Kfar Silver near Ashkelon (Shima Abu Keidar)

“We hope and believe that the positive experiences from the camp will resonate within the participating girls’ communities,” Azrieli said.

Hala Abu Kweder, one of the Bedouin participants in the camp, described it as an “amazing experience that I did not expect.”

Hala Abu Kweder, a Bedouin participant in the ‘One Team’ girls’ camp. (Courtesy)

“It was ten days of learning, of connection and unity. Today, I feel I know Jewish culture better, and I’m happy I had a chance to teach my culture to the Jewish girls,” she said.

For the first time in my life, I celebrated Shabbat, and it was very emotional! I learned about keeping Shabbat in the traditional halakhic way, I met observant Jewish girls who told us about their religion, about kashrut [Jewish dietary laws], prayers, and commandments,” Hala added.

Brielle Weissmann, a recent immigrant from New Jersey who was one of the Jewish participants, highlighted the inclusive environment of the camp, even for someone like herself who does not always confident speaking in Hebrew.

She also said she enjoyed learning about Bedouin culture, cooking traditional foods with the other girls, learning about Ramadan, and being introduced to the traditional Dabke dance, which was “really special to learn from girls my age, and not just from a video.”

“I’m really happy that now, after the camp is over, I have Jewish and Bedouin friends everywhere in our beautiful country,” Brielle said. “It’s not something everyone has.”

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