Hapoel Jerusalem FC
Hapoel Jerusalem is a unique Israeli football club. It is the first club in Israel that was founded and is fully owned by its fans and is the only club in the country to have both a male and female team in the Israeli Premier League. The club’s activities are based on the values laid out by the fans: equality, tolerance, and complete opposition to any kind of violence, discrimination, or racism. The working assumption of the club is that through a safe, open, tolerant, pluralist, and communal environment, one can create new norms of behavior in Israeli sport and become an exemplary model of communal responsibility.
Discover below some of Hapoel Jerusalem’s CSR Activities:
The Neighborhood League
The club’s flagship community action project uses football to advance social-educational values among children aged 8-14. At each partner school, there are boys’ and girls’ teams that operate twice a week and also feature learning centers to help the children advance educationally. Each team has a qualified coach, and once a month there is a celebratory tournament in which all of the participants (Jewish and Arab children from diverse neighborhoods of Jerusalem) meet. Thanks to their shared love of football, the relationships formed between the children provide them with sporting values of physical exercise, self-confidence, and creativity.
The Unified Special Needs Team
The Unified Teams project, which was the first of its kind in Israel, features two amateur football teams made up of fans of the club, who play alongside people with disabilities. One team is for fans and people dealing with emotional disabilities, and the second team is for fans and people dealing with mental-developmental disabilities. The project includes joint training once a week led by a professional coach. Participants are provided with uniforms and full training equipment. The program offers a response to exclusion, stigma, fear, and stereotyping among the general population towards excluded populations, and breaks down barriers and stereotypes toward disadvantaged populations. Football provides a secure, stable, and enjoyable framework for the participants, who for years have never missed a meeting. Friendships are formed on and off the field and the participants see themselves as part of a community of supporters, often attending the professional team’s matches, where they don’t feel excluded. Following in our footsteps, other clubs have established an additional eight integrated teams throughout the country, and an exciting tournament for all the teams is held three times a year.
Following the success of the adult teams, in 2021 Hapoel Jerusalem founded the “Football for Everybody” project, involving four groups for children on the autistic spectrum (classified as having medium to high functioning), and children who need emotional support (attention and concentration problems, anxiety, weight issues etc), and learn in a special or integrated framework. The children take part in an enjoyable and empowering weekly football group that integrates special needs children with non-special needs children. Football in a safe space empowers and strengthens the participants’ feeling of belonging and social acceptance. The groups are small (maximum of 15 participants per group), and each group is assigned various trained coaches, and reinforced with students specializing in care for children on the spectrum. The participants receive uniforms and football accessories, as well as a child-and-parent subscription for the professional team’s matches, so as to increase their sense of communal belonging. Each child undergoes a preliminary diagnosis by the professional team to assess their suitability. The club is in constant contact with community leaders throughout the city in order to create a relationship with the families of potential participants in the project.
Football isn’t (yet) a popular sport among women in Israel. It’s not easy to attract adult women (16+) to join regular training or take part in a monthly tournament that takes place outside in any weather. The goal of this project is to allow Jerusalemite women to enjoy all the advantages of football in an amateur setting. Training is held once a week, and every few weeks there is a tournament with teams from across the city. Every woman who dreams about participating in sports and enjoying football is invited to join the league without prior experience. Qualified coaches run the training, and each participant receives a professional uniform. The women come from all sectors of Jerusalem society (Jewish, Arab, religious, secular, and ultra-orthodox), and family members, including partners, regularly accompany the women to the tournament and cheer them on from the stands.
Kiryat Yearim Youth Village:
The village houses around 130 youths aged 12-18 in boarding school conditions. These are young people who failed to adapt to regular frameworks and schools. At the village, they receive a “last chance” to return to a normative life path that will allow them to integrate into society, and to succeed in completing school. Despite all the difficulties that we faced, we have succeeded in establishing and maintaining two football teams, an older group for 10th to 12th grades (a coexistence team with the children of the neighboring Arab village Abu Ghosh), and a younger group for 7th to 9th grades. The teams are a source of pride for the players who, no matter the weather, never miss a single training session. The goal is to instill sporting values and excellence into the youngsters – for them to want to win but also know how to lose, respect their opponents, increase self-esteem, abhor verbal and physical violence, and promote coexistence. There is training twice a week, and once a month there is a game against another boarding school. The seriousness and perseverance of the youngsters lead them to take their life path much more seriously.