This is the inspirational story of Israeli and Palestinian youths who unite over the game of Australian football. Tackling Peace goes behind the scenes as young men from different sides of a bloody political war set aside a lifetime of prejudice and hostility to compete as a team in the Australian Football League’s International Cup. Few of the aspirant players had ever heard of the game and none imagined befriending teammates from across the political divide.
The brainchild of Sydney-based footy mum Tanya Oziel, the Peace Team is an initiative of the not-for-profit Peres Center for Peace, which works towards peace in the Middle East.
The team includes 18-year-old Israeli Yonatan Belik who had never met a Palestinian before he started training with the side. His prejudices challenged and his endurance tested, he will forge friendships with his Arab teammates before returning to Israel for compulsory military service. His close mate on the team is 16-year-old Leith Jaber who comes from a highly politicised Palestinian family. Then there’s Naser Gous, a former Palestinian resistance fighter who spent three years in an Israeli jail after an attack on Israeli soldiers. While he believes peace is possible, Naser knows any collaboration with Israel can be seen as a betrayal and Palestinian players may be risking their lives.
Getting to the International Cup is a logistical nightmare. It can take hours for Palestinian players to cross checkpoints into Israel, the training ground does not have AFL goal posts, players have never seen the game played, they speak different languages – Hebrew, Arabic and English – and have complicated Kosher or Halal food requirements.
Narrated by Hugo Weaving and featuring legendary footballers Kevin Sheehan, Ron Barassi and Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico, Tackling Peace follows this group of Israelis and Palestinians in their quest to make it to Australia and play together against the world.
A Screen Australia National Documentary Program produced by Dreamstone Productions in association with GFN Productions and the Documentary Australia Foundation.