Girls’ Sports = Leadership Development in Bethlehem

When Pastor Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem’s Christmas Lutheran Church launched a Young Adult Leadership Development effort in 2007, he didn’t yet have program funding, but he knew training young leaders was important. Pilgrims of Ibillin provided early and ongoing funds to help with this highly successful program which helps young leaders develop both personal and professional strengths.

For the first two years a group of 25 young adults met weekly with Pastor Raheb and other community leaders. Then the 25 were challenged to go out into the community to use what they had learned — to BE leaders in some-thing creative they care about.

One member of this group, Honey Thaljieh, applied her newly minted leadership skills to developing a women’s soccer program in the Bethlehem area through the Diyar Consortium’s Dar al Kalima Health and Wellness program. Through Diyar, in turn, Honey has also helped launch a national women’s soccer program in the West Bank. In May 2011, the Diyar Women’s Soccer Team won first place in the first-ever Palestinian national women’s soccer tournament!
Honey’s initiative laid the groundwork for key successes in the last two years:

  • A trip to Germany gave the Diyar soccer team a chance to play against German teams and enroll in an in-tensive athletic leadership program.
  • A return visit by German coaches trained local coaches—not only to improve players’ skills, but also to organize and coach soccer programs for kids from refugee camps and the streets.
  • Many Diyar team members also play on Palestine’s first-ever na-tional Women’s Soccer Team, thus contributing to Palestinian women’s success in international sports.
  • The German soccer team paid a return visit to the Bethlehem soccer team in June 2012 (see photo above)

In 2011 Honey and the other Diyar Young Leaders met together again — to reflect on their leadership experiences, and dream of next steps.

Honey, however, left in mid-2011 to become the first Arab woman ever accepted into FIFA’s prestigious Master’s Program—a 9-month training program set in Europe.  She graduated this summer and brings her considerable skills home to Bethlehem.  Congratulations, Honey! (Watch “Captain Honey” on YouTube!)

The program Honey launched 2 years ago has borne fruit, even through her absence.  Coaches trained through the women’s sports program of Diyar now run basketball and soccer programs for girls:  sixty 6-9 year-olds, and sixty 10-12 year-olds.

Diyar asks, “How can you bring people together? How can you build bridges? How can you witness great communication among humans? SPORTS Indeed!”

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