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June 25, 2014

Andover 12-year-old works for Middle East peace through soccer

ANDOVER — The World Cup makes the game of soccer riveting to the masses, but the sport is at the center of an Andover boy’s life all the time. Ben Eckman, 12, has been playing since he was a toddler, and he spent the better part of the last year raising money for an organization working toward peace by way of the soccer field.

Soccer for Peace is a nonprofit based in New York that aims to help bring about peace in the Middle East by encouraging children from opposing sides of the conflict to play soccer with one another. The hope is that children will recognize commonalities between themselves and children from other war-torn nations, leading them to recognize the overlap between cultures.

Ben Eckman first heard about the soccer camp while he was searching for a philanthropy project for his Bar Mitzvah. Each Jewish child selects a project to be completed prior to their coming of age ceremony, and for Ben the choice was easy. He said he began searching for organizations related to world peace, and when he found one that was connected to soccer, it resonated with him.

“Israelis and Arabs come together at soccer camp so that they can become friends through playing together,” he said. “I have learned a lot about that area in school and through the news, with all of the fighting, and all of the hate, I learned there are things like Soccer for Peace and that’s a good thing.”

Ben raised $1,000 for the organization, while his parents planned a Bar Mitzvah ceremony to take place atop Mount Massada, a landmark in the Jewish faith and a picturesque high point that overlooks the Dead Sea. Last week the Eckman family made the trip to Israel, which fulfilled something of a dream for Ben’s father, David Eckman.

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