Rolling a Double: Backgammon and Understanding in Jerusalem

Double Jerusalem 2 (6)

“It started a year ago with a few Jewish and Arab friends thinking of a way to connect our communities and celebrate a culture that we had in common,” says Zaki Djemal, co-founder of Jerusalem Double –  a series of Arab-Jewish backgammon tournaments.

Since they won second place in the  Jerusalem Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Social Innovation Challenge, the series has turned into a city-wide phenomenon, attracting 4,000 Jews and Arabs of all ages and backgrounds, for fun events that are half-backgammon contests, half-street parties that celebrate Middle Eastern music and culture.

 This Thursday, August 24, they will have their  final  championships.  The first prize winner will receive an award of 25,000 NIS, thanks to the generous support of Marion and Guy Naggar.

Four  backgammon games will take place all over the city, including the Old City, throughout the day. The grand finale will take place at Habonim Park, right outside of the Old City’s Jaffa Gate,and will include a special concert celebrating Jewish and Arab music, with Mammon and the Firkat Al-Noor Orchestra, specializing in classic Middle Eastern Music, as well as guest performances by Zahava Ben, Nasreen Kadari and Neta Elkayam, three queens of Israeli music inspired by classic Middle Eastern sounds and rhythms.

 The event will be a celebration not only of backgammon, but also, of the city’s rich diversity. Djemal describes the Old City as the “epicenter” of Jerusalem, a natural place to host a festive championship dedicated to a game that is popular throughout the Middle East.

“Double is a known backgammon move, but in Jerusalem, it is much more than that,” said Djemal. “I see this game as something that has a twofold, double goal –having fun while bringing people together.”

 The concert on August 24 will begin at 6:30 pm, at Habonim Park, right beside the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City, and will be open to the public, free of charge. The final championship game will be broadcast live on a big screen, and, once the winner is announced, the concert will turn into a dance party.

We are proud to sponsor this initiative, which strengthens Jerusalem as a place of shared living and dialogue.

Asked what he’s most looking forward to, Djemal says that Masayuki Mochizuki, an international backgammon champion from Japan, is coming to participate in the tournament.

 “I’m looking forward to him getting beaten by a Jerusalemite,”  Djemal says with a grin.