The seminar, held somewhat covertly at a hotel in Irbid, included educational workshops in the field of sports as an educational tool and practical experience in the city square together with a large group of refugee children. It was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Regional Cooperation headed by Minister Yitzhak Hanegbi.
The participants in the seminar escaped from the battle zones in Syria, some of whom are illiterate and some of them unemployed. The refugees who managed to find work worked around the clock and for them, the seminar was an escape from the difficult reality to a better future.
One of the participants, Nancy Falah, said: "My whole family has been torn apart, some of them are still in Syria, some in Canada, some in Germany and some of them are no longer with us. We live in a very difficult reality, but the last few days have given me renewed hope. And I hope that through the tools they have given us, we will be able to embark on a new path and influence the rest of the refugees."
Ahmad al-Hamusi, another participant in the seminar, spoke of their difficult reality and the prospects for a better future: "My hometown of Daraa is only three kilometers away from Ramtha, and my father still lives there with my two sisters, but because of the situation in Syria, the three kilometers are like thousands of kilometers that I cannot pass. I left Syria with nothing, I don't even have an identity card.
"I was issued a temporary resident card in Jordan and I make a living from working in roof tiles and earn a very low salary. Thanks to the seminar, I have succeeded in breaking the barriers of fear and deterrence and renewed my hope that it is possible to live in peace, that it is possible to change our reality and educate the younger generation to a different reality using the tools we have received here."
The person behind the seminar is Fayad Shalabi of the Mifalot association, who led a group of three Israeli coaches and is working continuously with officials in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to promote joint initiatives.
But he admits that the current seminar was also unusual for him: "We came to the seminar with concerns and hid our true identity at first, but as the seminar progressed, a personal connection developed between us and the refugees. Towards the end of the seminar we revealed our true identity to them. To our great delight, it didn't change a thing."
Shalabi said that "on the last day of the seminar, we passed a questionnaire among all the participants in which they were asked whether they would like to take part in other Mifalot seminars and all of them answered yes. This is the great achievement for us, to see how the contents of Mifalot and our activities bridge the gaps that appear to be unbridgeable and create a long-term commitment between the parties."
Dr. Meir Orenstein, CEO of Mifalot: "To see the faces and hear the voices of the refugees at the end of the seminar are worth all the effort and difficulty we have experienced on the way. We are excited about the opportunity we have been given to try to influence the future generation of our neighbors as well as our future generation and we will continue to promote similar seminars in the near future."
The Minister of Regional Cooperation, MK Yitzhak Hanegbi, said that "this is a continuation of regional cooperation and the process of strengthening relations among the countries of the region. The joint meeting fulfills the vision and aspiration to develop a regional leadership that in the future, will know how to join forces and work together for the welfare of the peoples of the region, out of friendship, mutual respect and love. Sport is a tool that crosses genders, nationalities and religions, proving that the desire and hope for peace are the most basic common denominator."
(Translated and edited by N. Elias)