By Play Global!, www.play-global.org
For a couple of days in March, kids learned about throwing, hitting and running the bases. As they laughed and cheered each other on, it seemed like a typical thing for kids to do on a warm spring afternoon.
But this event was anything but typical. It was called Baseball Le’Kulam, or Baseball for All. It gave Israeli children from Arab and Jewish communities a chance to come together through baseball. Play Global and the Israel Association of Baseball led the event, held near Tel Aviv, as a joint effort.
“This program gave these kids an opportunity to build an understanding of each other while also learning baseball,” said Play Global’s Tom Gillespie.
The 28 sixth graders at the overnight clinic were all new to baseball. Many had never made a friend from the other cultural group. Instruction was in Hebrew and English, with Arabic speakers on hand to interpret.
Coaches made sure to mix the Arab and Jewish kids together for organized activities, but eventually they started to blend on their own. Arab and Jewish teammates cheered for each other, shared hi-fives, and included each other in games and drills. Off the field, they bonded over ponytails and hair spray, video games and junk food.
“This was a really great way to take a completely apolitical setting – baseball – and use it to help break many stereotypes and preconceived ideas,” said Nate Fish, Israeli Association of Baseball National Director.
At the end of their two-day program, coaches and the boys and girls participating discussed what they had experienced.
One young player summed it up: “Although we came from different cultures and we speak different languages, we are just kids that want to play baseball together.”
Baseball Le’Kulam is planned as a three-part program. This same group of kids will come back in June and October to work on their baseball skills. And, more importantly, they will work on forming lasting friendships.