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taken at the Canada Centre ice rink in Metulla

DJ Schneeweiss, Israel’s new Consul General


Jewish, Arab, and Druze Youth Build Connections through Hockey

by Rhonda J. Prepes, March 28, 2013

Jewish, Arab and Druze children and two coaches from Israel came to Winnipeg from March 12-19, 2013 to break down barriers by being immersed in Canadian hockey. For the seventeen students, ranging in age from 11 to 14, the sport of hockey is a way to break the ice between them and try to overcome obstacles of cultural, language, and conflict.

The team mates came from across the northern Galilee and even included a Druze child from the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, which is located a mere stone’s throw away from the fighting in Syria. Two cousins from Nazareth, both Christian Arabs, who speak Hebrew and Arabic fluently, were also part of the team.

They were students from the Canada Israel Hockey School (CIHS) located in the Canada Centre in Metulla which is supported by Astral Media’s Sidney Greenberg.

“We came here with the hope of infusing the Canadian passion for hockey into these boys and we also wanted the boys to experience a road trip, to strengthen the friendships between them and for them to meet new friends in Canada,” said Mitch Miller who came from Ottawa to assist the team.

“We are not attempting to solve the peace process at the hockey school but, we are creating connections between non-Jewish Israeli children and Jewish Israeli children. All these boys came on this road trip to play hockey together, room together, eat together and sightsee together. It is natural that friendships will develop between them and that can only be a positive step in the right direction for peace.”

The boys stayed with families of students from Brock Corydon School. They trained every morning at the MTS Iceplex, and spent their free time as any typical Winnipeg child – skiing, tobogganing, glow bowling, curling, shopping, visiting the Manitoba Museum, and hanging out at the Rady JCC.

Mike Mazeika was teaching hockey at the Toronto Maple leaf hockey school before he was invited to Metulla in October 2011 to become a hockey coach there.

“I knew what to expect in Winnipeg because I grew up in Canada. But these kids had such high expectations for Winnipeg. For them Canada is the holy land of hockey and for them Winnipeg IS Canada because this is the only place they will see,” Mazeika said.

Essam Abdo, team manager and Arabic interpreter from Nazareth said, “This is my first visit to Canada and I am blown away by how nice everyone is. The Winnipeg Jewish community, the Jewish Federation, the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and the people from Brock Corydon school have made sure that we have been well taken care of.”

A crowd of about 150 people came to watch the CIHS team play the Corydon Comets Minor Peewee A3 team at the MTS Iceplex on March 17th. DJ Schneeweiss, Israel’s new Consul General in Toronto paid his first visit to Winnipeg to coincide with the game, where he officiated at the opening faceoff.

“It’s great to see these Israeli kids on Canadian ice matching goal for goal with the local team. I have heard that the Israeli hockey team has enjoyed being here and that the host families have enjoyed having them. It’s been an enriching experience for everyone involved.  This trip is a nice celebration of the human contact between Canada and Israel,” Schneeweiss said.

“Israel and Manitoba have a rich array of cooperation already in place. While I am here in Winnipeg, I am meeting with members of the Manitoba government and of the two Universities to promote that, advance it and take it the next phase.”

Portions of this article first appeared in the Jewish Tribune.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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