American Football Brings Israelis And Palestinians Together

By AP April 02, 2011 Comments

The cheers from the skullcapped settlers and armed soldiers filled the air. Jewish and Palestinian teammates worked in collaboration. And the Judean Rebels walked away as champions of Israel Bowl IV.

Only [a few weeks] after five members of a Jewish West Bank settler family were killed in a knife attack, the championship game of the American football league in Israel again brought together people from opposites sides of the political spectrum.

This time in celebration.

“We play as a team and leave our personal stuff on the side. If they can do it, I can, too,” said Musa Elayyan, a 21-year-old Rebels defensive lineman from the West Bank city of Ramallah who grew up in the United States and goes by the nickname “Moose.” “Once you’ve played together you create a bond, especially on a successful team.”

The Rebels held off a late charge to beat the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Sabres 32-30 on Friday at Kraft Stadium, the venue named for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

It’s not the Super Bowl – the level of play is more akin to high school football but on a smaller field and with only eight players per side. And it’s definitely not the World Cup – although the shofar, a traditional ram’s horn, can give the vuvuzela a run for its money when its blast is heard around the stadium. But it is a chance for Jews and Palestinians to put aside their political beliefs and lock heads on the football field.

“We are the only Israeli league of any kind that has any Palestinian players and I’m proud of that fact,” said Steve Leibowitz, the founder of the four-year-old league. “We were concerned about the politics but it just hasn’t been an issue.”

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Photo by Torsten Bolten

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