Ibrahim with Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Ibrahim, a 19 year old Palestinian from East Jerusalem, is an eight year participant of PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME), and a current member of PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program Boys basketball team, which is made up of Israelis and Palestinians from East and West Jerusalem, from Palestine and Israel. Ibrahim is studying occupational therapy at the Arab American University of Jenin (AAUJ) in Jenin, Palestine. In 2007, Ibrahim was interviewed on “The Today Show” in a segment about PeacePlayers International.
Ibrahim (left) on The Today Show in 2007
I understand you returned last week from the ninth editition of Youth Leadership Program (YLP) with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) held in Berlin, Germany. Tell me Ibrahim. What was the YLP all about?
It’s about bringing youth leadership from different organizations internationally to teach the youth how it can develop life skills, solve conflicts, and bring peace. There were about 25 of us from different countries that have conflict. My conflict being the one of Israel and Palestine, while in Africa there is a great challenge to learn how to develop the countries, so each country can maintain peace.
What kind of activities did you do at YLP? Was there one that stood out as the most impactful?
We experienced so many great activities, and we met many organizations that actually have their own plans to solve a certain conflict. There was an organization helping young people in Colombia and Africa to solve problems using table tennis. In Berlin, we learned about leadership with disabled people, and how we can use basketball to change their lives. I can now teach them sports and they can have a team. When you ask what activity was the most impactful I cannot point to a specific activity, but what I can point to is the participants – the other youth that surrounded me throughout the 12 days and every session we were in.
I understand that there were people from 13 different nations at the YLP. Did they seem very different than most people you know? How did you get along?
Yes, that’s right. Mostly African nations except for me and a girl from Lebanon who I could speak with in Arabic. The other participants had truly unique life perspectives from my own, and it made me eager to get to know them and understand their culture and way of life. As each of them opened up about their life struggles at home, I was amazed to hear what they had been through. I was surprised to feel less mature than many of them based on what intense experiences they had had at such a young age. It was a really special time with them, and we became like brothers and sisters. Everyone was participating with an open mind and open heart not afraid to be vulnerable with the group.
Ibrahim picture with the red shoes amongst his fellow youth leaders of sport for development and peace
How does what UNOSDP is doing around the world compare to what PPI-ME is doing in Israel and Palestine? Do they have the same goals?
They have the same goals but in different ways. PeacePlayers goes directly to the children to solve the problems directly. UNOSDP focuses on training the youth leaders who can in turn focus on the problems in their area. It is similar to our LDP, but UNOSDP brings together different organizations so everyone can learn a lot from each other. Meeting others and seeing what other organizations are doing in this field gives me strength to continue the mission at home. Now it’s not just PeacePlayers. There are so many people and organizations who are going for the same goal trying to make the world a better place for everyone.
Did you find that there are other organizations or movements like PPI-ME out there in the world with similar missions?
From what I saw there are many organizations like PeacePlayers except they are using different sports like table tennis and soccer. PeacePlayers seems to operate on a larger scale, however. I did not find another organization that is using its methodology so deeply in such diverse areas of the world like PeacePlayers is.
The YLP offered the chance to meet professional athletes.
What did you learn from this experience that will effect the way you live your life?
Those 12 days made me a wiser young adult. Actually, now I can do so much more by myself than I realized. I need less help now than I used to. I heard a great quote from a disabled man at the YLP. He gave me a bracelet and told me, “You can do more than you think.” I get up in the morning, and I go to this game and do better than I expected in the first. Don’t let your thoughts be the limits. Let your actions speak. Always do more than you think you can.
How did it compare to life in Israeli and Palestine?
Life was great there. It seemed so peaceful there, and everyone was smiling. I saw no signs of conflicts. Sometimes, you need this vacation from conflict to be ready to deal with the conflict again and to be ready to get back to your fight.
With former professional soccer player Edgar Davids – Ibrahim admired Davids growing up as an aspiring soccer player
What do you envision for the future, Ibrahim? What do you desire?
My dreams got bigger during those 12 days. After every activity each organization was speaking to me about how I am going to be an ambassador for my country to make a difference. They made me feel like I’m not going to be a usual guy. This gave me hope and new dreams. I now have new points and new things to fight for. I study occupational therapy in the university, but now thanks to UNOSDP I have hope to be more than just a practitioner. Now, I am focused to become a manager and a leader of my own business, organization or clinic.
And I want to say thanks to PeacePlayers for supporting and encouraging me to pursue this opportunity to experience the Youth Leadership Program with UNOSDP, and I also want to send a thanks to UNOSDP for those 12 days, one of my best life experiences.
At a professional basketball game of Alba Berlin – Ibrahim described the stadium as one of the most beautiful in the world