Abu Ghosh is an Arab-Israeli local council in Israel, located 10 kilometres west of Jerusalem on the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem highway. It sits in one of the earliest areas of human habitation in Israel and today is a cradle for both the Muslim and Jewish communities, who live together. In 2021 a group of children from Abu Ghosh, led by Israeli Judo Federation President Moshe Ponte, travelled to Morocco (https://www.ijf.org/news/show/there-was-magic-in-morocco) and were welcomed by Chafik El Kettani, the President of the Morocco Judo Federation. A delegation of young judoka also went to the Paris Grand Slam and more recently, visited the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam (https://www.ijf.org/news/show/when-children-know-more-than-leaders).
Just prior to the Masters in Jerusalem, the IJF Judo for Peace Commission was present on the tatami and shared some great moments with the children of Abu Ghosh, together with Or Sasson (ISR), the Rio Olympic bronze medallist.
On this occasion Sasson said, "I'm really happy to be here today and to share my passion for judo with the children. This kind of Judo for Peace project is not only important, it is crucial to help build a better society. Judo is an amazing sport, with values. This is what we need in the region and in the world."
The judo session, in which the children of the neighbourhood took part, therefore continued at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem, where a large delegation of children came to watch the competition.
Mohammad Salim Jaber is the Sport Director of Abu Ghosh. For him, the judo session and the Masters are an incredible opportunity to promote peace, "We came with 250 children today, 4 buses, and will bring another 250 tomorrow for the last day of the tournament. Some of the children are judoka and participate in the Judo in Schools programme while the others are discovering judo and I think they are very happy about it. In any case, they were all very excited to come.
This is important because both communities are represented and can enjoy the show together. I love judo! It's an amazing sport that can help bring peace. I really want judo to develop in Abu Ghosh and we are doing everything to make it happen, in partnership with the Israel Judo Association."
It was difficult in the noisy atmosphere of the arena to hear what the children had to say, they are so excited. They only have eyes for what takes place on the tatami. It must be said that the level is so high that they no longer know where to turn and who to encourage but for many, it is certain, "One day, I would love to be on the tatami of an international competition."
That's all we can wish for them. There is no doubt that meeting Or Sasson on Saturday in Abu Ghosh, being able to do some randori with him and being present during the Masters, will inspire more than one. This is also what the Judo for Peace and Judo in School programmes and the circuit competitions contribute to. This may seem ridiculous, given the global geopolitical situation but the ocean is made up of drops of water. Abu Gjosh's programme is far from being just a drop in the bucket though and the smiles on the children's faces are the best proof of this.
Eliran Malca, the Deputy Director General of the Israel Judo Association, who has been one of the key people organising the Abu Ghosh project, summarises it, "If one day peace will come, it will come from the children. They are naive, in the best sense of the word. They train together, they live together and they naturally want to be friends with each other. Our dream and the dream of Moshe Ponte is to make something bigger than judo; this is called peace through judo."