At an opening ceremony for a new tennis center in the city of Akko (in northern Israel), Shahar Peer played an exhibition match with a young local tennis player.
The city of Akko has a diverse population including 30% Arabs, and the tennis center was erected with the specific aim "to encourage dialogue and coexistence between Jewish and Arab children and their communities"
In an interview with local press Peer said that "this kind of cooperation in sport and in general, proves the two people (Arab and Jewish) can work together. This is a welcomed cooperation especially in a city which symbolizes the coexistence between Arabs and Jews."
a short clip from the exhibition match:
The interview (in Hebrew):
The complete press release:
Akko is one of the oldest and most historically renowned cities in Israel, dating back over 4,000 years. Akko is also one of the most diverse cities in Israel: out of approximately 53,000 residents, 15,000 are of Arabic descent while 13,000 are from the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Akko scores 4 out of 10 on Israel's socio-economic scale and faces many socio-economic challenges. Unemployment rates are higher than the national average while average incomes are considerably lower. The second Lebanese War has also taken its toll on Akko and the nearby areas; residents have suffered from bombardments and many still cope with post-traumatic stress.
The Akko Municipality, the Jewish Agency, the IDB Foundation in Israel and the Israel Tennis Center have partnered together in a unique joint venture to which each party brings its special and specific skills, acumen and standards of excellence. Since 20% of Akko's residents are less than 14 years of age, the Israel Tennis Center in Akko will attempt to create a new and better reality for its residents and especially for its children. The Israel Tennis Center in Akko will also be located close to a major highway leading to many populated areas in Northern Israel. This location is not by chance; it is part of the unique vision to create a safe and structured environment not only for Akko residents, but for an entire region.
Over 30% of the population in Akko is Arab; therefore, the Israel Tennis Center in Akko will have a strong cross-cultural emphasis and will aim to encourage dialogue and coexistence between Jewish and Arab children and their communities. This is of great importance, as Akko has been the forefront of recent clashes between Arabs and Jews that have rekindled feelings of hostility and mistrust between the two neighboring communities. At this point in Israel's history and in light of the inter-racial tensions dictating so much of the prevailing stressful ways of life of both Jews and Arabs, it is more important than ever to strengthen the ties between the two communities. There is no better way to do so than through joint sporting activities in a positive cultural and educational environment.