Arab Israeli beats Jewish boys in quiz on Zionism

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The Independent Online

In a fortnight when two Arab footballers have kept Israel in World Cup contention, an Arab schoolboy has beaten hundreds of Jewish children to win a quiz focused on the history of Zionism.

In a fortnight when two Arab footballers have kept Israel in World Cup contention, an Arab schoolboy has beaten hundreds of Jewish children to win a quiz focused on the history of Zionism.

Rami Wated, 12, an Arab Israeli from Jaffa, was a winning finalist in a competition to answer questions mainly based on Tel Aviv street names and their relevance to the history of Jewish nationalism.

Rami, the only Arab among the final 60 sixth-graders from Tel Aviv and its neighbouring port of Jaffa, spent 10 weeks preparing for the contest after a teacher at Hassan Arafi, his Arab school, suggested he entered. Questions included "Who is Rothschild Street named after? Who was Herzl? What does the symbol of Tel Aviv, seven stars surrounding a lighthouse, mean? Who was Hannah Rovina?"*

With his Jewish partner Guy Gutherz, Rami won a plaque, two tickets to the Rishon Lezion amusement park, and CDs of songs about Tel Aviv after coming equal top with a Jewish pair, Ron Kalef and his partner Yarin Sade.

"After my teacher said I should enter, I wanted to prove myself," Rami said yesterday. "I wanted to win. Despite the fact that many did not believe I would win, I prepared well ... It doesn't matter if you are Jewish or Arab, just as long as you can prepare properly."

Rami's school teaches Israeli history, but less than in equivalent Jewish schools. Rami said he had prepared with a booklet from the Tel Aviv municipality, which organised the contest, on the history and street names of the city.

Rami's father, Khaled, said most Arab schools in the area had declined to participate in the contest but the principal of Rami's school took a different view. Mr Wated added: "He wants to prove Arabs could share in such a contest like other Israeli boys and girls. He wants the school to be respected."

Mr Wated said he regretted that Rami - who was unable yesterday to answer "Who was Salahadin?**"- had not yet learnt Arab history. But he added of the Tel Aviv quiz: "There are more positive things than negative about this. It helps co-existence. Rami had a Jewish partner of his own age and this means they can understand each other better." Israeli Arabs make up a fifth of the 6.6 million population, though a Central Bureau of Statistics projection said this would rise to a quarter by 2025. Arab leaders have long complained of prejudice and a lack of government funds, including for education, although Israel denies discrimination.

Kobby Barda, the Tel Aviv municipality spokesman, said Rami's victory indicated a "renaissance" for Israeli Arabs working with Jewish fellow citizens, after two Arab goalscorers rescued Israel in successive World Cup qualifying games. "This is a nice story," he added.

Abbas Suan, who plays for Sakhnin, the Arab club which also has Jewish players and won Israel's FA Cup for the first time last season, scored Israel's goal in its 1-1 game against Ireland 11 days ago. And Maccabi Haifa's Walid Badier scored in Israel's 1-1 match with France last Thursday.

At a game in Tel Aviv on Monday between Sakhnin and Betar Jerusalem, booing Betar fans, notorious for racist chants, tried to drown out an announcer urging the crowd to welcome Suan after his goal against Ireland. But Sakhnin fans answered a frequent chant from Betar fans, "No Arabs, No Terror", by shouting, "No Arabs, No World Cup".

* Baron Edmond de Rothschild is the banker and philanthropist who helped many of the early 20th-century Jewish pioneers in Palestine; Theodor Herzl is a founding father of Zionism; stars in the Tel Aviv symbol represent seven days of the week, and daily hours worked by the municipality; the lighthouse is a beacon for Jewish migrants to Israel and Hannah Rovina, an actress, was "the first lady of Israeli theatre". He was the Muslim general who defeated the Crusaders .

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