Israel is on the map. Budo for Peace has recently won the prestigious Regional NGO of the Year Award from the Monaco-based PEACE & SPORT International. The NGO was recognized for its outstanding contribution to the promotion of peace, social harmony and coexistence through educational activities based on traditional martial arts principles.
Budo for Peace was honored at an international event held on the Greek island of Rhodes, which was led by Prince Albert of Monaco and attended by many members of the International Olympic Committee as well as athletes and representatives of educational and sports associations from around the world.
"The Way of Values," the NGO's educational program, connects young children and adults from all walks of life in Israel and the region and teaches social harmony, acceptance and coexistence. As part of the program, The Budo for Peace International Martial Arts Seminar was held in Israel earlier this year.
The other finalists of the prestigious competition came from Libya's Benghazi 2018, which created a rugby league among the various tribes in the country, and a Greek NGO that offers sports and yoga classes for the mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees on the island of Lesvos.
"We will continue to work for social harmony, empowering educators and educating for peace, to encourage children and youth from all parts of Israeli society to embrace the other," said Sensei Danny Hakim, founder and Chairman of Budo for Peace.
'A city of refuge' for the four tribes in Israel
Hakim began his long career in martial arts as a member of Australia's tough karate team and even won two silver medals in world championships. He fondly remembers the members of the Australian karate team, which consisted mainly of immigrants from various countries, including Turkey, Lebanon and Iran.
As the only Jew on the team, Hakim recalls the electrifying atmosphere and the good energy that karate training has poured into the heterogeneous group that an outside observer would have a hard time imagining.
"We practiced together, good friends, meditated and performed karate together, it was wonderful. Then I went to Japan and for 10 years I trained with people from all over the world," he says.
For Hakim, the veteran karateka, this is a dream come true. "This is the first time we've received a prize, we are a small organization and we don't have a back office like the big sports organizations, we do not have the backing of the government, it is a victory for all the small organizations," he exclaims.
During the interview, Hakim expressed the hope that following the international win, Budo for Peace will finally receive support from the state, noting the NGO's activities match the vision of President Reuven Rivlin, whom he recently met.
"Our activity unifies the four tribes of Israel: secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox and Arab, living in ignorance and fear of each other. Through joint training in martial arts, the Dojo (the traditional training site in Japanese) becomes a special place, a 'city of refuge' for the four tribes," Hakim explains.
"Everyone take off their shoes, give a bow and begin the workout with mutual respect and harmony. Through the practice of martial arts, the fear of the unknown is gone and there is connection. Martial artists must look people in the eye and create real coexistence," he asserts.
'Wanting peace doesn't make me a leftist'At the age of 42, Hakim, an enthusiastic Zionist who grew up on the teachings of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and the values of the Beitar movement, decided to immigrate to and establish a family in Israel.
"If I want peace, it does not mean that I am a leftist. We need strong security and a lot of strength to make peace. I define myself as a Zionist. The founders' generation built the country, and now we are missing peace. All the children - they train together: Ethiopian immigrants, secular Jews, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox. I believe that's the way. I don't talk to parents and teachers, we start with the children."
Budo is the Japanese term for the code of conduct and ethics that make up the basis for the values of all martial arts, including respect for others, striving for peaceful resolution of any conflict, the aspiration for excellence, restraint and self-control, and the individual's responsibility in and for the community.
Budo for Peace is a registered Israeli non-profit educational organization founded in 2004 by Hakim, who serves as chairman of the organization. He also serves as chairman of Kids Kicking Cancer Israel, an organization that operates the "Circle of Heroes" program in Israel for children with cancer and other serious illnesses.
Through a program based on martial arts therapy—a therapeutic method based on martial arts principles combined with guided imagery—the "Circle of Heroes" instructors conduct about 4,000 meetings a year with the children who are treated by this method.
Budo for Peace is the only organization in the world that educates for coexistence, social harmony and empowerment on the basis of martial arts. More than 2,000 children from around the country take part in activities organized by the NGO, which helps creating a common language between the various sectors and tribes in Israel, as well as reducing violence among the trainees and the communities participating in the activity.
The goal of "The Way of Values" is to foster social cohesion among the various sectors that comprise Israeli society, develop Israel's future leaders among children and youth, and to instill core values of personal excellence and social harmony to our young students to empower them.
The educational experience is accessible to children and youth through martial arts clubs, community centers, schools and community centers in Lod, Kiryat Malachi, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Gat, Jisr A Zarka, Tamra, Ra'anana, Givat Shmuel and many other cities and towns in Israel.
Budo for Peace also builds and strengthens bridges for children, youth and adults from neighboring countries and communities—including the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and more—by bringing together representatives of these communities (senior teachers of various martial arts and their students) in meetings and seminars in Israel as well as sending delegations from Israel to them.
During the NGO's fourth international seminar in February 2018, representatives from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Greece, the Palestinian Authority and Israel met to form a connection under the organization's education and empowerment platform.
During the Israeli seminar, 80 senior martial arts masters from all of these countries and communities worked together to develop joint projects in a week of training and discussions. These teachers presented a model for achieving social harmony for 800 children of Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish origin from the periphery and center of Israel.
Hakim, a sensei at the 7th Dan level in Karate who represented Australia and Japan in international competitions, has recently become an international "celebrity," when he appeared in Netflix's "Fight World" documentary series on martial arts around the world.
"There was an entire episode about tough Israeli Krav Maga, and the American producers wanted to show another side of the State of Israel. We contacted them and they came to film our joint training for Jewish and Arab children on the beach at Jiser a-Zarka. We are very happy about the result," he says.
Instructors and training groups in the world of martial arts—both in Israel and abroad—who are interested in taking part in Budo for Peace's vision can contact the NGO on its website .