Concordia University welcomed Michael Leitner as he presented his work on peace building and coexistence in Israel through integrated sports programming.  

On November 25, 2013, Concordia University hosted a lecture given Michael Leitner. Michelle Soicher, CAMERA fellow at Concordia, shares her reactions to the event.

Professor Leitner and CAMERA fellow Michelle Soicher hold the CAMERA Banner

The title of Professor Michael Leitner’s lecture was “Playing for Peace”.  Some 30 students attended the lecture and the subsequent discussion with Prof. Michael Leitner. In his lecture, Leitner discussed his work with integrated sports programs in the Middle East.

Professor Michael Leitner works to promote peace and coexistence, mainly among young Jews and Arabs in Israel, by promoting and facilitating joint recreational programs. Professor Leitner works for the Israeli organization Mifalot, where he directs the evaluation of Mifalot’s 3-year program “United Soccer for Peace.” The goal of the program to prepare Jewish and Arab coaches to run integrated soccer programs for 40,000+ Arab and Jewish Israeli youth, thus developing the foundation for coexistence and peace in the region. 

Michelle hoped to introduce her fellow classmates to a unique stream of peace-building work, and to “inspire and promote hope.” Indeed, students were “introduced to the concept of recreation as a ways to understand ‘the other’ and how this consistently lowers the rate of hostility between peoples.” As Michelle notes, Leitner “discussed the importance of not only loving your neighbor but understanding that your neighbor does not hate you.” Michael Leitner discussed the effect of his work in a long-scale context.

Professor Leitner Discusses His Work

Michelle goes on to say that “Professor Leitner gave a very clear picture of how his work can inspire a brighter future within Israel and on a global scale. He had a focus on inspiring peace and how the situation is not as it is often represented in the media.” Michelle says that the event’s attendees responded to the event with positive feedback, expressing support for the integration work being conducted in Israel for Jewish and Arab youth. Participants mentioned that they did indeed learn about Israel through the event.

One of the participants, as Michelle reports, asked the following question during the Q&A session: You [Professor Leitner] mentioned many Arab countries are hesitant to get involved with your work. Do you ever receive negative responses from Israelis? 

Professor Leitner responded to the question, stating that, “…people ask me what I do, all kinds of people; I don’t seek out liberal people to answer my questions and every person I have talked to, in or out of the University community is so excited and says that my work is helpful and interesting.”

All in all, Professor Leitner was very good at engaging his audience. He even included an interactive component in his lecture, in which all the students got out of their seats and participated in a demonstrative exercise.

Music Programs, much like integrated sports programs, work to bring together Jewish and Arab Israeli youth.

Michelle hopes that next time around she will be able to attract a larger audience. In the future, such an event, Michelle notes, should be promoted by the department of recreation and leisure, and perhaps should be held in a more central area of campus (especially when it gets cold!). Overall, however, Michelle was pleased with how the event turned out. She says a lot of CAMERA ‘swag’ (booklets, pamphlets, pens and Frisbees) were distributed. Hopefully, word will spread quickly about the fantastic work that Michelle and other CAMERA fellows and CCAP groups around North and South America have been doing! As a final note, Michelle added, “Thanks, CAMERA, for making my first event happen! Bigger and better from here!”

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