How One Board Game Is Bringing Together Two Cultures

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One of the core ideas behind Geek & Sundry is that games can bring people together. We believe that no matter who you are or where you live, anyone can be united by their common interest in gaming. This principle is not only true in this country, it’s also playing out in some unexpected places.

According to a report by Reuters, an organization called Double Yerushalmi is putting on regular events in which the Arab and Jewish populations of Jerusalem come together for friendly games of Backgammon. For these events, both Arabs and Jews leave politics behind them and they simply bond over their shared love for the game. Backgammon may not be a juggernaut in North America, but it still has a great deal of popularity in the Middle East; where it is believed to have originated over 5,000 years ago.

“The city is segregated in many ways, so we wanted to create some crossover between neighborhoods,” explained Zaki Djemal, one of the organizers of the event. “Politics is not at the center of this, but it’s around.” The report notes that there have been six meetings to date, with three in Jewish neighborhoods and three in Arab neighborhoods.

“There aren’t many mediums to meet people from the other side of the fence,” said Binny Zupnick in the report. “There’s an automatic topic of conversation.” Zupnick also noted that the lighthearted mood of the Backgammon tournaments was a refreshing change to the more serious tone of other events that attempt to bridge the gap between the two cultures. According to the story, the most recent event ended with people from both cultures dancing to Arab Dabke music as a gesture of unity. These events may not change the ongoing Arab and Jewish conflicts, but they are a step in the right direction.

What do you think about Double Yerushalmi’s efforts to use Backgammon as a way to find common ground between Jews and Arabs? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Image Credit: Silverman and co.

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