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Israeli Coaches, Players in Vermont

February 7, 2002

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) _ A group of 16 basketball coaches from Israel and the Palestinian territories have come together at the University of Vermont despite increasing political tension at home.

The eight Palestinians and eight Israelis are at the end of a weeklong trip to Vermont. They were brought here by the Israel-based Peres Center for Peace to play basketball and experience American culture.

``Nobody here is so naive to think that bringing (these) coaches here for a week will solve the Middle East crisis,″ Jeff Schulman, Vermont’s assistant director of athletics, told the Burlington Free Press.

``The idea for this is to remove them from the politics of the region and give them the opportunity to interact with each other in a neutral setting.″

The two groups built friendly relationships as soon as they met.

``Sports is a language everyone speaks,″ said Yair Galily, an Israeli. ``Now it is not ‘us’ and ‘them’ here, it is just ‘us.’ It is a small step, but an important one.″

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