International Peace Initiative- Australia

International Peace Initiative- Australia

November 2012


The remnants of jetlag could not dampen the animated enthusiasm in the voices of our team members as they recalled their whirlwind trip to the "Land Down Under". "There's a reason that they call it the end of the world", Hazem says in jest. Hanan, echoing his sentiment, was struck by the foreignness of the experience, "the world there seems back-to-front, the roads, the weather- it's all upside-down", she laughs. However, our Peace Team was often viewed with the same quizzical stares by the locals, as slightly as "topsy-turvy" themselves, as they advocated for peace, ironically or maybe poetically, at a time in which the tension between the Palestinians and Israelis was at its peak. "Peace? Now? You've seen the news right? Read the newspapers?" However, the precarious and worrying situation back home, did not deter them from proving that solidarity, friendship and co-existence are not illusionary concepts. Although they were confronted with hard-nosed questions, our team, who are far from being seasoned diplomats, spoke from the heart, drawing on personal experiences and tales of unlikely friendships.

The days preceding and following the 11th SKIF World Karate Championships were dedicated to getting to know the local Jewish and Muslim communities and introducing them to our activities and ideals. It was hard not to notice our bold team, with its distinct social textures, as they paraded around Sydney in their striking red tracksuits proudly embossed with the Budo for Peace logo. Their exotic multi-faith and multi-ethnic presence, especially during such sensitive times, piqued the interest of a host of media outlets and led to extensive media coverage of the events, including features on, SBS Radio, SBS Arabic Radio, ABC Dateline, Influencing PR Journal, The Raw Story Blog Glen Eira Leader & several articles in The Australian Jewish News (1), Australian Jewish News (2), Australian Jewish News (3), Australian Jewish News (4).

For 12 unforgettable days, Danny, Abed, Rasha, Dror, Hazem, Shayan, Paul, Hanan & Ward took advantage of the trail of intrigue they generated to captivate the attention of high school students, community leaders, fellow Karate practioners and curious bystanders and to serve as a human testimony to harmony  and camaraderie in the face of political friction and strife. They visited local high schools, baked challot at a Chabad-run soup kitchen together with Zaka representatives, took part in a typical Aussie Barbie (BBQ) and took in the glorious sights of Sydney, including an impromptu, flash-mob style Kata demonstration in the bustling Sydney Harbor to the rhythm and beat of the indigenous didgeridoo. Click here to watch the street performance.

Media Event & International Launch

Tuesday, 20th of November marked a noteworthy juncture of the initiative. In conjunction with theNSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the acclaimed public relations firm, Text100, hosted by theCouncils of Leichardt and Marrickville and sponsored by Kikkoman, we held an emotionally charged media event at a Leichardt high school. After a hearty breakfast and a moving peace presentation by our delegation, our team members mingled with the Australian youngsters leading them in a joint training session which taught far more than the art of kicking and punching.Adrianne Kern, who works for Text100 and who has been a vital player since the outset, was especially moved by the displays of tolerance and  acceptance. "The most moving part of the launch event was when Danny (the Jewish karate champion) and Abed (the Palestinian champion) were sparring. After the demonstration, they gave each other a massive, spontaneous bear hug. I don't think there was one person in the room who weren't deeply moved by that one simple act".

#1 SKIF Yudanshakai Educational Panel Discussion

Following the highly successful launch of BFP international, we continued to garner awareness for our organization and our mission in a novel educational panel discussion with skilled and veteran black belt Karateka at the Sydney Olympic Stadium. The goal of the panel on the topic of how to use Karate to create socially responsible projects in local communities, was to highlight the educational crux of Karate and to create an awareness of the moral code and responsibility of every Karate sensei. We are hopeful that after imparting our ideals to fellow Karate enthusiasts from across the globe we will be able to recruit new BFP members and affiliates and in this way will extend our reach and our message to the international arena. Learn more about our International Affiliate Program here.

Melbourne Picnic in the Park

An additional highlight was the Melbourne Mitzvah Day Picnic in the Park, organized by theZionist Council of Victoria and Jewish Aid Australia. The team spent a marvelous day inCaulfield Park which lauded the human spirit as Sudanese Muslim families mingled with members of the Melbourne Jewish community and their international guests. Several leaders among the Sudanese participants commented on how moved they were by the unique story of the Budo for Peace team and how much the kids enjoyed learning the basic moves. Take a look at some of the heart-warming pictures.

Although the team embarked on this adventure with the purpose of showing Australia the virtues of Budo values, they were affected no less by the warmth, hospitality and gestures of kindness and openness by their new-found Australian friends. One may think that for ardent Karate enthusiasts, the pinnacle of the trip would have been the Championships themselves. However, although the competition was an unbelievable opportunity to meet like-minded people from around the world, to enrich their professional knowledge in the field of martial arts and marked personal milestones for most of them, including Danny who was awarded his 7th Dan, many of the team's members revealed that what they will take with them most are the personal encounters and social connections.

For Hazem, a Bedouin for whom hospitality is an ingrained personality trait, the home-stays were the most memorable. For Abed, our Palestinian representative and a baker by profession, baking challot and surprising the Rabbi's wife with a remarkable 12 platted challah, platted in just 5 minutes, was one of his fondest memories.  Hanan recalls the Melbourne Picnic in the Park as the event which truly touched her. "Honestly, this is the first time where I've come into contact with a people with dark-skin...I sat there with a young Sudanese boy on the one side and on the other, a fair skinned Jewish girl with a mop of red hair. It was really moving to place my hand on his and her small hand on mine- all together. I sat there, shaking slightly and thought to myself, that this is where it all begins, from this young age- maybe then we can all live together in harmony, the young Sudanese boy and the red haired Jewish girl, regardless of all of our external differences and labels".

We would like to thank everyone, both in Australia and in Israel, who believed in our mission, contributed to the success of the project and who helped us to catapult Budo for Peace to new heights. We are truly fortunate to have so many valued friends and supporters, so much so that we are unable to personally thank you all in this framework. We are certain that this initiative will mark a significant milestone in the upward growth and continued development of BFP in new and promising directions.