American football: Game unites conflict's two sides

Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:06pm EDT
 
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By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - American football, not the most genteel of sports, is proving to be an unlikely force in bringing together Israelis and Palestinians.

Nationals from the two territories, who have been in conflict for years, have formed the Judean Rebels, a squad that practices and plays American football every week on a field in Jerusalem.

The sport is rarely played in the Middle East but many of the Israeli members of the team immigrated from the United States and live in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

They and their four American-born Palestinian gridiron colleagues say their love of the sport transcends politics.

Musa Elayyan said all he, brothers Mohammed and Ayub and cousin Ramzi wanted to do was play football.

"I played in high school and suddenly going 'cold turkey' -- it was kind of hard," the 22-year-old Palestinian said.

AMATEUR LEAGUE

Elayyan, who lives in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina adjacent to Jerusalem's city limits, said he felt no sense of enmity from any of his team mates and was interested only in playing.   Continued...

 
<p>Palestinians Musa Elayyan (L) and his cousin Ramzi Ahmed, both members of the Judean Rebels amateur football team, stand together during a team practice at a stadium in Jerusalem August 19, 2010.REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun</p>