This past weekend, PPI – ME returned to Kibbutz Sdot Yam for another in a long line of retreats that we’ve been holding to kick off the year. First there was the Jerusalem All-Stars excursion to Eilat last month, and the Professional Development Retreat for coaches took place a week after that. This time around it was the Peace Education Retreat for kids from East and West Jerusalem and the surrounding area. More than 50 kids ages 12-14 as well as Leadership Development Program (LDP) kids 15 and up were in attendance. In addition to playing basketball, the younger kids, many of whom are totally new to PPI, got an intensive intro to the Peace Education curriculum, which teaches kids to see each other as people on the basketball court and off. The workshop was led by new on-staff facilitators Nissreen and Renana, who led the session in two groups, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, to maximize the younger children’s comprehension and ability to actively participate. LDP, who are already well versed in the curriculum, are putting a greater emphasis on gaining the tools to lead the curriculum.
As an extra treat, PPI – ME Project Manager and facilitator Nissreen (who is also an artist) led a creative workshop that delves into the notion of cooperation and trust that are at the core of our program. For the activity, Palestinian and Israeli youth were split up into mixed pairs. Each member of every pair was charged with the task of applying plaster masks to his or her partner’s face. As Nissreen explains, the workshop offers an opportunity for intense cooperation, trust and communication. “Plaster, when not applied correctly with the right amount of Vaseline can stick to a person’s skin. Each member of the pair had to trust that the other person was taking the care to apply the mask the right way.” Nissreen also added that “the physical interaction make them feel comfortable with one another. Having contact with each other’s faces, which is very intimate, creates a sense of closeness and creates a positive feeling.” Workshops like these complement the impact of basketball, which works the body, and the curriculum, which works the mind, by creating a casual and fun way to build closeness.