A tribute was held to the late Ninth President Shimon Peres at the start of the event, with attendees standing and applauding in his memory, as is customary in football stadiums around the world.
In memory of the late Ninth President Shimon Peres, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation held the annual Mini Mondial for Peace today (9.5) in Herzliya. The event opened with three unique exhibition games, one featuring Ambassadors and diplomats from around the world playing against young Arab and Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian participants from the "Twinned Peace Sports Schools" program. Another exhibition match featured Israeli Premier League all-star football players, and the final match featured Mayors from across Israel.
The Peres Center's "Twinned Peace Sports Schools" program promotes friendship and shared-living between children and youths throughout Israel and the West Bank. Ambassadors, Mayors, professional all-star footballers, and the young participants came together to promote a message of peace and shared-living through the international language of sport.
At the Mini Mondial opening ceremony, in tribute to the late Ninth President Shimon Peres, who passed away in September 2016, attendees stood and applauded to honor his legacy. President Peres proudly attended the Mini Mondial every year, where he encouraged the young participants to dream big. He was a man of vision and action, who worked tirelessly to advance a prosperous Israel within a peaceful Middle East, and firmly believed in the power of individuals to work hard to realize a better and peaceful future.
Chemi Peres, son of the late President Peres and Chairman of the Board of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, congratulated the participants and thanked attendees and said, “This event proves that what seems impossible is possible. These young participants get to know each other, respect each other, and work together – for the good of the team. They prove that the impossible is possible. The values of the Peres Center, teamwork, patience, and tolerance, are taught to our participants throughout this program.”
"This is the first time that we are holding the Mini Mondial without my father, Shimon Peres. But despite his absence, I feel his spirit and vision here on the pitch and in the eyes of the children - and I promise that we will continue to uphold his legacy."
The "Mini Mondial for Peace" is the annual peak event of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation's "Twinned Peace Sports Schools" program in which Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian children, girls and boys, meet on the football pitch. Throughout this project the children meet one another, train together, learn each other's language, and play football together on mixed teams. This project, which has been running for 15 years, brings together hundreds of children from different communities all over Israel and the West Bank every year. To date, over 20,000 children have participated in this project.
The "Ambassador Peace Team" was represented by: Ambassador Zhan Yongxin, China; Ambassador Deborah Lyons, Canada; Ambassador Anu Saarela, Finland; Ambassador Alison Kelly, Ireland; Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas, Lithuania; Ambassador Barbara Susnik, Slovenia; and Ambassador Sarayoot Kalayanamit, Thailand, as well as senior diplomats including USAID Deputy Mission Director Jonathan Kamin; US Embassy Cultural Attaché Jonathan Berger; Italian Embassy First Secretary Niccolo Manniello; French Embassy Science and Academic Attaché Sebastien Linden ; and Australian Embassy Second Secretary Nicholas Cooper.
The Israeli Premier Football Leagues represented included: Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, Betar Jerusalem, Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Petah Tikva, Bnei Sakhnin, and Hapoel Haifa.
Mayors and Heads of regional councils represented included: Herzliya, Kochav Yair, Or Yehuda, Oranit, Karnei Shomron, Ariel, Pardesiya, Tiberias, Abu Ghosh, Taibeh and Beit Zarzir.
Muhammed Wattad, Head of the Jatt Regional Council, said, "We, as leaders of the Arab sector, must serve as role models.” He continued, "We, Jews and Arabs, sit together side by side in the football stadiums, and the Peres Center shows us this vision of shared-living, proving that it is possible to play without discrimination and without racism. I wish everyone a successful day.”
Moshe Fadlon, Mayor of Herzliya and Member of the Board of the Union of Local Authorities, said: "The Herzliya Municipality and the local authorities work to preserve the legacy of President Peres every day, and believe that sport is a bridge between cultures. We promote respect and friendship, and encourage these values in all aspects of life.
In addition, Ms. Alona Barkat, owner of the state championship team Hapoel Beer Sheva, was awarded the "Peace Ambassador in Sport" award in the name of the late Shimon Peres for her activities promoting peace and tolerance in Israeli sports. Also in attendance was the Sports Director of Maccabi Tel Aviv Jordi Cruyff, son of the late legendary football player Johan Cruyff, Chairman of the Arab Mayor's Forum Mazen Ghanaim, and radio announcer and sportsman Didi Harari, who announced the event.
Photos by Silvia Golan