Yoav Alon

Kicking Conventions to the Curb

The girls in Jerusalem’s Hapoel Katamon soccer club don’t just talk about “girl power.” They practice it: on the field, at their games, and in every opportunity in between. Selected on the basis of athletic talent and ability, these young players come from both the western and eastern parts of Jerusalem for twice-weekly training sessions and a weekly league game. Since the group was founded less than a decade ago, they’ve not only overcome both literal and psychological barriers to teamwork. They’ve also managed to win the State Cup — twice.

The soccer club was the first team of its kind for girls in the city. But for Hapoel Katamon, it was just one in a long line of social initiatives the club sponsors, part of its ongoing efforts to educate for non-violence through sports, fight against discrimination and racism, and enhance internal dialogue between different sectors and groups in Israel’s society.

Sports for youth at risk; soccer matches between Jews, Muslim, and Christians; games for native-born Israelis and new immigrants; teams for individuals with disabilities; and neighborhood leagues. All these and more take place every day at Hapoel Katamon, which is run entirely by a team of community volunteers. Today, almost 1,000 Jerusalem children and youth of every background and socioeconomic level participate in one of Hapoel’s activities, and help make the club a model of coexistence, on the field and off.