Our Social Programs
The Neighborhoods League is our flagship community program, now in its 10th season. The program consists of setting up Football teams in schools across the different neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The teams practice twice a week, and the participating children attend a weekly educational center, where they receive support in their schoolwork and additional educational curricula. Once a month all teams come together for a joint tournament. The league is unique in that it brings together children from all of Jerusalem's diverse backgrounds – Jewish and Arab, religious and secular, children from affluent neighborhoods and those from less fortunate economic backgrounds. In 2019/20, the league included 52 teams with a total of about 750 children. Significantly, the league includes both boys and girls teams.
"One on One" – An exciting addition to the Neighborhoods League program beginning in 2017 has been the introduction of one-on-one meetings between teams from Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Prior to the joint practice sessions, the children are taught football terminology in Hebrew and Arabic, so that games are played using both languages. The success of the program can be clearly seen in the general tournaments, where the children from the partner teams run to greet eachother.
HKJFC Women's Football Program – HKJFC women's Football program is the only program for women's Football in the entire area of Jerusalem. Currently about 400 women and girls take part in the program, with interest and demand growing rapidly. The program includes 3 departments: The competitive department is one of the best in Israel – the U19 team (named after Shira Banki, a young girl murdered in an attack on the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade in 2015) won an historic championship in the 2016/17 season, and 7 girls from the team were subsequently chosen to play at the Israel Football Association's National Academy. The U14 and U11 teams are also thriving. The Neighborhoods League (for boys and girls) connects children from the different neighborhoods in Jerusalem, enabling a rare interaction between Jews and Arabs. And the adult women's amateur league – now including teams from six neighborhoods – offers an organized framework for adult women to play Football. All in all, the success of our women's soccer program sends a wonderful message to the city of Jerusalem in terms of normalizing participation of women in 'non-traditional' roles and breaking down social barriers.
The Football Schools – HKJFC operates 4 Football schools for children ages 6-12, the first having opened at the Katamonim neighborhood, one of the city's poorest. This year, more than 200 children were enrolled in the schools, coming from different neighborhoods and backgrounds, and receiving top notch professional training which emphasizes important values such as team play, sportsmanship and rejection of all forms of racism and violence.
HKJFC Boys' Youth Department includes 9 teams with approximately 250 players ages 9-19. Participants reflect Jerusalem's diverse population, with a significant number – including team leaders – Arab residents of East Jerusalem. The department offers its young players the highest standard of Football training. More importantly, it provides participants, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a supportive educational and social framework, allowing them to realize their full potential. Since the 2016/17 schoolyear, the youth department also includes a Football academy, where children from the youth teams, most from disadvantaged backgrounds, live and study at the Israel Goldstein Youth Village boarding school and receive both intensive Football training and support in their studies and personal development.
Kiryat Yearim Project – The Kiryat Yearim Youth Village is a 'last chance' boarding school for boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, including many who are children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. HKJFC leads a Football program within the village, emphasizing values of teamwork, dedication and sportsmanship. The program is managed by Lior Huja, a former HKJFC player whose career ended abruptly at an early age following a severe injury, and who serves as an outstanding role model for the children. The program has been credited by school leaders for a distinct reduction in violence in the village and increase in graduation rates.
The Shekel Project – The Shekel Organization provides community services for people with special needs and/or mentally challenged individuals. In 2012 HKJFC adopted the Shekel Organization's Football team and enlisted the help of the team's professional players and staff in the project. The objective of the program is to provide a positive, fun and confidence-building environment for the participants and help them overcome previous experiences of intolerance and rejection.
Unified Sports – A collaboration with the Special Olympics organization, Unified Sports brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same team. The program currently includes two teams in which HKJFC fans practice and play together with people suffering from different disabilities, with two weekly practice sessions and visits by HKJFC’s professional players.
Fan Zone – As part of the effort to create a family friendly, nonviolent atmosphere at HKJFC games, the club organizes Fan Zones starting about two hours before game time, full with games and activities for young children ages 3-13, as well as lectures on sports-related topics for older children and adults. The Fan Zone is of course open to fans of the visiting team, thus creating a positive, friendly atmosphere. This type of initiative is unique in Israel, and it is run entirely by volunteers. Hundreds of families enjoy these events, and they have become a trademark of HKJFC home games.
Ad-Hoc Activities – In addition to these regular programs, members and fans of HKJFC are also involved in a wide range of more focused activities. Examples include hosting a group of blind fans for a crucial game and providing them with live commentary by a well-known sportscaster, as well as a dedicated sound system which allowed them to enjoy the songs and cheers of the crowd; participating as a group in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride annual parade to send the message that Football is for everyone, and holding a visit by fans and players from the professional team at The Bilingual (Hebrew-Arabic) School in Jerusalem that was a target of an arson attack by racists.
All of these initiatives have been developed, refined and implemented by an ever-growing number of volunteers, with crucial input from a number of committed professionals who have dedicated their limited time and resources to ensuring their success. However, as with all volunteer-driven projects, a growth in resources would allow us to expand the scale and scope of our programs, reach out to more people, and ultimately have a greater impact on Israeli society.