Peace Team 2011

13 Feb

by Danny Brill

This is the first in a series of blog entries, written by Danny Brill, about the Peres Peace Team’s participation in the International Cup,  which will be published here on the Teaching Israel blog.

Photo courtesy of

In 2008, a select group of 26 Israeli and Palestinian men (13 of each) trained for 9 months, learning how to tackle, handball, pass, and kick goals for the Australian Rules Football International Cup. The International Cup is a gathering of amateur leagues from across the world. (Australian football is currently played professionally only in Australia.) Upon hearing of the idea, the Australian Football League (AFL) jumped at the opportunity to showcase its sport in one of the most conflict-ridden parts of the world. The Peace Team, as it is now called, was the brainchild of Tanya Oziel, who is the Executive Director of the Peres Centre for Peace in Australia, and from personal experience, is also a power not to be messed with. In 2008 these 26 men did not realize that those 9 months would change their lives forever.

Being involved with “footy” is what hooked me in the beginning, but after a few weeks of shlepping out to the kibbutz where training was being held, I started to ask myself some serious questions.

Fast-forward 3 years. Now in February 2011, the International Cup is again upon us, and again we are starting to get the Peace Team ready to give some fight, but this time things are different.

For a start, I no longer believe that all Muslims should be removed from the State of Israel, I no longer believe that violence is the only solution, I no longer believe that there is no one who wants real peace on the other side, and I no longer believe that I am powerless to do anything about the current situation.

After meeting, playing, defending and living with my team-mates 3 years ago, the questions I ask myself this time are very very different. Instead of asking myself whether I fear for my life at training, I now ask myself whether I can learn Arabic within 6 months. I have replaced questions about my insecurity of being around “these people” with questions as to how I can learn more about a situation I know nothing about, and teach someone else about my own situation.

I open my eyes to a brand new day of understanding that living in Israel and believing in a lasting peace does not need to come at the cost of abandoning my people, my tradition, my religion and my friends, but rather must be used as a tool to try and make some sense of this G-d-awful mess of a situation. A society that involves people with different beliefs, opinions and religions is the first step to peace. Do I have the power to decide if a people aching for peace or even just some peace and quiet should have their own state? Do I have the power to say whether they should have their own government? Clearly there are some things over which I may not yet have influence, for better or worse.

What I can tell you is that I’m more pumped this time around than 3 years ago, and the Peace Team is on a mission!

Danny Brill is an oleh from Melbourne, living in Jerusalem, who was Assistant Coach/player in the first Peres Peace Team, in 2008.


9 Responses to “Peace Team 2011”

  1. Elissa February 14, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    This is a wonderful read Dan – raw, real, honest. It’s great you put your own thoughts and changes into words that are at the very least thought provoking but for people who are open enough, your reflections are truly inspirational. Thank you. Good luck with the game – and with Arabic! Let us know how both go…

    • Yael February 14, 2011 at 10:32 am #

      I also really enjoyed this and would love to hear more. It is amazing how your perspective can change and develop and how you are so self-aware about these changes and not too shy to share them with world. I also think that your article gives hope in such a “G-d-awful mess of a situation,” as you put it. Perhaps more can be done on a grassroots level, and we can achieve peace on a personal and communal level, even if it cant be done immediately on a national level. Kol Hakavod. Keep on writing.

  2. michoel February 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    It’s a pity people don’t understand.
    Go to train the team somewhere in Gaza or FathLand…
    How many seconds you will be alive?
    For sure they have right for their own country and right to live how they want (with pluralism or without) and they already have 22 including Jordan(so-called palestinian. More than 2/3 of population from “palestinian” arab ethnic group)
    We need only one – our Israel. We have right for this land more than any other nation in the whole world on theirs.
    I heard the story from the man who fight in “Milhemet ha-atzmaut” in 1948.
    Dozens years they lived together with arabs neighbours and consider them friends, but in 1948 they put knife in jewish back. (Do you know the stories about 1929 in Hebron? People went to each other, to doctor and were killed by “friends”. It’s seems to me you don’t want to know.)
    I worked in Jerusalem with arabs, they were very good in job, in relations. But if you start talking about peace and war, with red eyes they honestly told, they going to kill us because it’s “their land”.
    All of us have to remember Germany. “Normal people” became murderers under Nazi regime.
    Written in Torah – Ishmael – wild men. Very famous story what Chofetz Chaim told about. They could be teacher, doctor or so on, But it would be wild teacher, wild doctor, wild sportsman…
    When our “cousins” realizes that they not able to through “Zionist entity” to see and ordinary mothers loves their children more than they hate Jew, than will be real peace.

  3. Igal Abir February 16, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    I knew the guy who trained that peace team and was talking to him as he just finished the project as they filmed it and showed the movie (I think on SBS). I know his family, Rob Dickson – ex Hawthorn footy player, very kind soul. How sad it was the they we heard on the news how the whole family including Rob and his children, all except one – Dusty his wife – died in a car crash in Africa. A truly inspiring guy who put all his heart in training that team. Rob comes from a family of great Christian faith him and his wife have high moral values. His wife going through this awful family tragedy, is now a volunteer in missionary organizations to poor communities in Nepal.

  4. Ittay February 17, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Like Dan, when I first attended a joint Israeli Palestinian initiative (The Sulha) one the the things that astounded me most was that both sides were convinced that they were the peaceful moderate reasonable side and if only the other side had reasonable people like us, peace would come in no time.
    Three years on, I agree with Dan when he says “I no longer believe that there is no one who wants real peace on the other side”
    Reading the Palestine Papers released by Al Jazeera and seeing how much the PA were willing to compromise on their red lines, i know there is a serious partner for peace.
    I hope that more people who engage in joint projects like that of the peace team will stop seeing the other as an enemy and start seeing the other as a neighbour.

  5. Tanya Oziel February 25, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    You inspire me Danny….remember all those years ago when we started on this journey….how I shared with you what this project had done to me….it’s astounding…has helped us all be better human beings, more understanding and opened our eyes to looking at things just a little from the other side….thank you for sharing, thank you for caring and thank you for having the courage to stand back and voice something that is hard to do. You’re a flippin champ Brill….can’t wait to have you back xxx

  6. Nick Hatzoglou February 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Danny your words are inspiring and one of the main reasons why we at the AFL were so keen to nurture this project. This team serves as a wonderful example to what can be achieved when [people come together and take the time to understand each other. More power to you all.
    Nick Hatzoglou (AFL Multicultural Program)


  1. Galus Australis » Peace Team starts boot camp 2011 - March 5, 2011

    […] about the Peres Peace Team’s participation in the International Cup,  originally published here on the Teaching Israel […]

  2. Peace Team 2011 – Part II « teachingisrael - March 17, 2011

    […] be published here on the Teaching Israel blog. Read the first blog in the series by visiting  Photo courtesy of […]

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