There was magic in Morocco /

On November 11, a “Judo for Peace” delegation left Israel for Morocco. It was the first delegation of young people to arrive from Israel in Morocco since the resumption of official relations between the two countries. The dream of launching such an initiative began to materialize immediately after the signing of normalization between Israel and Morocco.

Two years ago, a similar delegation visited France for the 2020 Paris Grand Slam, but as the Covid crisis hit the globe, the dream of sending a delegation to another destination was delayed.

The delegation was made up of 8 Jewish children from Jerusalem and 8 Arab children from Abu Ghosh, who practice as part of the Israeli judo program in schools.

The delegation was accompanied by the President of the Israel Judo Association (IJA), Mr. Moshe Ponte, the Chairman of the Board of Abu Ghosh, Mr. Salim Jaber, the Head of the Community Sports Directorate in Abu Ghosh, Mr. Muhammad Issa Jaber, of the IJA The Deputy Director General and the Judo project manager at the school, Mr. Eliran Malca, the initiator of the project, Mr. Yoel Libster and the representative of the Beit Esther association, Mr. Meir Russo.

On its arrival in Marrakech, the delegation was greeted with the warmth and smiles of the representative of the Moroccan Judo Association, Ms. Amina Zanir.

The first judo training session was held at the Flam Morocco Judo Club and immediately attracted the attention of the media. The delegation was also invited by the President of the Moroccan Federation, Mr. Chafik Elkettani, who generously welcomed, while the children received little souvenirs from Morocco.

In Casablanca, they had the chance to participate in a session at Club ABS Dojo Academy. Another judo course was held in Rabat at the Al Assad association, attended by Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Morocco, Mr. Eyal David.

The last judo session was held in Essaouira and also offered the opportunity to organize a friendly competition between all the participants. The Mayor of Essaouira, Mr Tarik Ottmani and Kaoutar Chakir Benamara, the Secretary General of the Essaouira Mogador Association were present.

The President of the Israel Judo Association, Mr. Moshe Ponti, said: “I would like to thank Mr. Chafik Elkettani who accommodated us and took care of us from the moment we landed. It is a welcome project; the first training with local athletes in Marrakech was super exciting as well as all the other sessions and social gatherings. Local and big television channels from Morocco came to cover the events. I see that what is happening here has caused a great echo not only in Israel. All the judo sessions were attended by the parents of Moroccan athletes and it was really exciting and made me realize that we are not only doing competitive judo but also bringing the hearts of the Jewish and Muslim communities closer together and so on. is something huge.

The President of the Moroccan Judo Federation, Mr. Chafik Elkettani said: “We were very happy to welcome the Judeo-Arab delegation from Israel. This is a first collaboration marking the renewal of relations between Morocco and Israel. This shows that we share the same sporting values.

There was a double interest. On the one hand, the Jewish and Arab communities of Israel can get to know each other better and, on the other hand, they can come here to Morocco to also discover our country, our traditions and our open-mindedness.

You should know that the second Moroccan community abroad, after France, is in Israel. Relations between our two countries are old. Even President Ponte was born in Casablanca.

This stay, made possible by the immense work carried out by our two federations and I thank them for it, was very convivial.

Judo has brought together a lot of people and we can be very proud of it. We are going to get even closer to the Israeli Federation and strengthen our cooperation for the benefit of judo, but this goes beyond sport. Morocco has always been a country of unification and peace and I believe that peace is built in all directions. The Jewish community is an integral part of the Moroccan constitution. We have many cities like Tetouan, Essaouira and Marrakech in which the mosque adjoins a church and a synagogue.

Since the diplomatic rapprochement between our two countries, it was the first meeting of the two official structures of Morocco and Israel. It was judo that made this possible. Sport must and can be a vector of peace. It is our role to ease tensions. The Moroccan media were included and thus the echo of this trip goes beyond the borders of the kingdom. We will continue on this path in partnership with the International Judo Federation and the Israeli Federation.

The Deputy Director General of the Israel Judo Association and the Head of the Judo in Schools Project, Mr. Eliran Malca, explained: “Two years after being with the first delegation at the 2020 Paris Grand Slam, this trip has been very exciting for me and for the members of the delegation. I am happy that we were able to make this dream come true. The people we met on this trip have opened so many doors for us and I’m sure we’ll be hearing about the next project soon. These children are our future and if we do not manage to take the first steps towards peace, then I am sure that through judo they will be the ones who will succeed.

In a world in perpetual turmoil where bad news is omnipresent, the event which took place last week in Morocco is to be put in the camp of the initiatives which make it possible to positively reinforce the bonds between the populations.

Chafik El Kettani and Moshe Ponte

While it was more difficult in the past, this time we were welcomed to Morocco for open and comprehensive cooperation, which sows the seeds of the future. Many thanks to everyone who made this possible. I am delighted with the project and happy that the young people are involved,», Added Moshe Ponte.

Mohamed Jaber, director of Abu Ghosh’s sports department, also commented: “We took the initiative within the sports department of the Abu Ghosh Community Center to organize the first joint judo missions between Arabs and Jews. This is the continuation of the Judo for Peace and School Judo programs initiated by the International Judo Federation. The aim of such a stay was to strengthen relationships and the exchange of experiences between young people. Through this mission, we plan in the future to renew growing relations with other brotherly countries. We hope that this mission can be a model for other nations and peoples so that we can achieve our ultimate goal, which is to establish peace and harmonious life in a better world.

Uday Jaber, one of the young participants from Abu Ghosh said: “We were very excited to come to Morocco, our experience was special. Already in Israel we connect a lot with Jewish children and when we arrived in Morocco the connection only grew. We gradually understand that what we are doing is really huge and everyone is talking about it.

His Jerusalem teammate Eitan Busheri added: “We were constantly told that we were going to make history, but only when we arrived in Morocco and saw the warm and exciting welcome we realized that this was something huge. As young boys, we want to connect Jews and Muslims through sport, not politics.

The stay ended in Essaouira, in an incredible atmosphere. During the friendly interclub meeting, the young Moroccan judoka from local associations made new friends among the members of the Israeli group.

It was a strong moment of reflection on the universal values ​​that judo and sport in general can promote: friendship, respect, loyalty, sharing, hospitality, dialogue and politeness. These are values ​​that unite all people, regardless of their country, culture and religious beliefs. There was magic in Morocco, real magic!