I met Danny Hakim at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, three weeks ago. He was on a panel, speaking in a session titled “What is Your Israel? The Real Israel Story Trumps Talking Points.” He talked about his organization called “Budo For Peace” and I was completely inspired. Budo For Peace is an Israeli educational non profit organization, bringing together children from all kinds of backgrounds, teaching the lifestyle and skills of martial arts. Two of the amazing ideas they promote include coexistence and dialogue, as well as female empowerment. These are ideas I relate to and love, but most of all I connect to Budo For Peace as a fellow martial artist. So, with my love for peace, martial arts, and Israel, I joined Hakim at a special Hanukkah tournament yesterday in Kfar Saba, to witness Budo For Peace, in action. In yesterday’s tournament, religious Jewish students from Tel Mond, Raanana, and Tel Aviv competed against a group of Bedouin students who were brought in on a bus from a tiny village called Abu Quidar. 3,000 residents live there, in the Negev Desert, without the water or electricity the rest of Israel has; only receiving electricity from solar units and water from tanks. The Bedouin people are known as shepherds, still living without most modern day additions to life, especially when it comes to women, but I met to a beautiful little girl there who broke these stereotypes. Seven year old Hanan Abu Quidar drew our attention from the moment we walked in. My friend who joined me at the tournament laughed that this small Bedouin girl looked just like she did, as a little girl. She was one of the shortest, but the toughest too, with passion behind her round hazel eyes. I decided to speak to her afterwards, but in order to ask her questions, we needed two translators. She spoke to the head of her karate studio in Arabic, he translated to my friend in Hebrew, and she translated to me in English; so our messages passed between two others before they reached each other. It was a funny way to speak, but worth it. Hanan told me this was her first time ever leaving her village and entering another part of Israel. She said she wants to be an engineer when she grows up. I asked if she has any Israeli friends or if she made friends with any of the Israeli girls she met at the tournament. She shrugged and shook her head no. But I told her we were friends now and as she left I blew her a kiss that made her blush, before she blew me one back. We are not so different. Maybe I grew up across the world, but I grew up wearing a similar karate uniform, being taught the same values. Values and lessons that are broader than the boundaries of our different religions. Bedouins are in the news a lot right now. People have all kinds of stereotypes about the ancient culture and traditions of these people. But I saw yesterday, although where Hanan is from may be considered an unrecognized village, she is entering a modern world with big dreams. Budo For Peace represents the changing times for all nations in Israel. These children are growing up without fear or anger towards each other, which is not usually the case with many children being raised throughout controversial areas of Israel. I’ve always learned that education is the road to peace. With the new generations and programs like this, we have a new opportunity for change in the Middle East.
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